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Photographers Face Ejection Over Lenses 743

destinyland writes "Zooomr CEO Thomas Hawk was ejected from a San Francisco art museum because the security guard apparently thought his expensive camera could be used to spy on female employees. Another photographer notes that 'many people consider a professional-looking camera a threat,' and the state of California has even passed a law against telephoto lenses being used to intrude on celebrities' private lives. Hawk is routinely confronting security guards who argue that photographing their buildings represents a 'security threat.' Ironically, four weeks ago while attending Microsoft's Pro Photo Summit, he was told he couldn't even photograph the lobby of a Hyatt Hotel."
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Photographers Face Ejection Over Lenses

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  • by apathy maybe ( 922212 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @09:31AM (#24613883) Homepage Journal

    (The following text applies, I believe, in the USA, Australia, the UK and maybe other places, check with your local lawyer, I'm not one.)

    Unfortunately, inside privately owned buildings they (being the owners, managers or agents) can prevent you from taking photos (or, ask you to leave). (If they ask you to delete your photos, you tell them to fuck off, or just pretend to. But if it looks like someone is going to beat the shit out of you... maybe safer just to delete the photos.)

    However, outside, on public property, they can't do shit, and you tell them that.

    Most of the time, you just need a smaller camera. It won't take as nice photos (perhaps), but it is much less obvious, and beats not being able to take photos at all.

    By the way, the often used "security threat" or "terrorism" bullshit, is just bullshit. If a terrorist wants to take a photo, they don't need a big obvious camera, they just use a small one. More to the point though, tourists (terrorists?) take photos of public buildings everyday, unless you are willing to fuck with your tourist revenue...

    For comments around public photography and laws around photography in the UK:
    http://www.sirimo.co.uk/ukpr.php [sirimo.co.uk]
    http://www.chapterthirteen.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=64&Itemid=56 [chapterthirteen.com]
    For the USA:
    http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm [krages.com]
    http://www.photosecrets.com/law.html [photosecrets.com]
    Lots of links for different countries:
    http://www.photolawnews.com/ [photolawnews.com]
    There are also guides for Australia I believe, and other countries.

  • by Fez ( 468752 ) * on Friday August 15, 2008 @09:31AM (#24613891)

    I need to stuff a copy of The Photographer's Right [krages.com] in my camera bag in case something like this ever happens...

  • by gsslay ( 807818 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @09:33AM (#24613913)

    The Register has two recent articles about similar stories and general photography paranoia in the UK.

    The war on photographers - you're all al Qaeda suspects now [theregister.co.uk]

    UK clamps down on bus-spotting terror menace [theregister.co.uk]

  • by jonnythan ( 79727 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @09:35AM (#24613953)

    Shopping malls aren't public places. They can absolutely kick you out for any reason they feel necessary. They can't demand that you hand over your film or prevent you from publishing the pictures that you've taken, but they can demand that you not take pictures or kick you out.

    Sorry, you are dead wrong here. Review this summary of photographer's rights [kantor.com].

  • Photographer's Right (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 15, 2008 @09:35AM (#24613957)

    Someone has taken the time to compile the rights of a photographer in various places. There's a pamphlet size pdf file you can get from http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

  • Re:Amusing (Score:3, Informative)

    by IceCreamGuy ( 904648 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @09:36AM (#24613971) Homepage

    Choose one.


    You sound like a textbook on logic explaining what a false dichotomy is; there's a big difference between the government monitoring citizens without their consent and people taking personal photos in public places, and there's most definitely a lot of gray area between them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 15, 2008 @09:38AM (#24613989)

    You should see how batshit insane the US gets where there are minors involved.

    My uncle nearly had his daughter taken from him - and himself thrown in jail - because he took pictures during a beach vacation.

  • by hal9000(jr) ( 316943 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @09:43AM (#24614055)
    No, it is not fall out from 9/11. This has been the case for years and years. I was working for a video company back in the 80's. We had kiosks on food stores. I went in to take pictures of our kiosk and spent a rather fun 30 minutes placating some really freaked out managers.
  • by suso ( 153703 ) * on Friday August 15, 2008 @09:46AM (#24614109) Homepage Journal

    Shopping malls aren't public places. They can absolutely kick you out for any reason they feel necessary. They can't demand that you hand over your film or prevent you from publishing the pictures that you've taken, but they can demand that you not take pictures or kick you out.

    Sorry, you are dead wrong here. Review this summary of photographer's rights [kantor.com].

    Did you read the statement I made at the end of my comment? Read it again. But when it comes down to it, I bet if you did a survey, the majority of people would say that they think that a shopping mall is public property because it gives that impression. From what I read in the photographer's rights document that I read, it came down to being able to get into the facility without a key, special permission or some credential.

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @09:49AM (#24614173)
    The law is clear, in a public place, you are free to photograph anything you want, even other people without their permission. While most police officers are aware of that law, security guards usually are not, and so it is likely that they will give you a hard time about photographing the public facade of a building. Also keep in mind that the law is not clear on photographs where the subject of the picture is on private property but the photographer was standing on public ground.
  • From the first paragraph of the document you quoted, in bold,

      there are no laws prohibiting the taking of photographs on public or private property. If you can be there, you can take pictures there: streets, malls, parking lots, office buildings. You do not need permission to do so, even on private property.

    I don't know how much more obvious it could be

  • by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @09:57AM (#24614273) Homepage

    Yes, that's quite true. But from a privacy standpoint (specifically regarding photography), malls are considered public places. If they have a problem with photographers, they're certainly entitled to ask you to leave (and you'd be trespassing if you don't comply) but that's about the extent of it.

  • well sort of. (Score:2, Informative)

    by www.sorehands.com ( 142825 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:04AM (#24614373) Homepage

    There is no specific law against photography on private property, but the property owner can revoke your "invitation" to be on that property, turning you into a trespasser which then makes your presences on that property illegal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:12AM (#24614519)

    It doesn't matter what you, other posters, or even public opinion might think. What matters is what the courts have ruled. In this case (and please excuse my lack of citation) they've ruled that as far as privacy is concerned.. the mall is public property, with no assumed right to privacy which makes taking photos okay. You're also correct that the mall can ask you to leave for any reason except for those protected by the Constitution (race, creed, etc.)

  • by computational super ( 740265 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:14AM (#24614561)
    the security officer was not amused and said he would have to take my camera and arrest me

    In what the hell jurisdiction does a security guard have the right to arrest somebody? Or confiscate their property? If they can do it, anybody can... I think I'm going to go arrest somebody right now.

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:16AM (#24614645)

    But if it looks like someone is going to beat the shit out of you... maybe safer just to delete the photos.)

    No way! Let them hit you. Then fall down and don't move. The guy hitting you is an agent of someone who owns a mall! Hello early retirement to a sailboat!

  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:18AM (#24614693)

    In what the hell jurisdiction does a security guard have the right to arrest somebody?

    In any jurisdiction that has something similar to a citizens arrest clause. However, you'd have to be committing an actual crime for this to be applicable.

    Or confiscate their property?

    That's a "nowhere". If anything, they can hand you over to the police.

  • by corbettw ( 214229 ) <corbettw&yahoo,com> on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:23AM (#24614803) Journal

    That's not entirely accurate, at least not in the US. The Supreme Court has ruled that shopping malls fulfill the traditional "public square" function, and you are free to conduct political activities on their property, as long as you don't block entrance or exit and don't pollute the area with excessive noise or trash. That's why you can set up a table outside of a grocery store to get people to sign a petition, and when the manager tells you to leave you can tell him to call the cops and have you arrested. Which he won't do, because the police won't arrest you.

    I know, I've done this many many times in my younger, more active days, when I tried to get pro-marijuana laws put on the ballot in California.

  • by corsec67 ( 627446 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:24AM (#24614825) Homepage Journal

    That's not entirely true. I know that in New York you are NOT allowed to take pictures of other people without their consent.

    If that was true, then you couldn't set up any meaningful kind of CCTV security system.

    That is NOT true at all, see Arrington v New York Times Co. [rcfp.org], 434 N.E.2d 1319 (N.Y. 1982). There isn't an expectation of privacy in public. Shopping malls and other private areas can have restrictions, but they can't restrict taking pictures of the building from a public area. You only need permission and a model release [wikipedia.org] if the photograph is going to be used commercially, which excludes news and "fine art" usage. That means that you can even photograph children in public and sell the picture to a newspaper without anyones permission. If a cop stops you, they can't require that you either show them your pictures, or to delete pictures. Don't trust me, ask a lawyer [krages.com].

  • by CrackedButter ( 646746 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:25AM (#24614849) Homepage Journal
    Some museums will let you take pictures if you don't use flash and they will give you a photographers badge anyway on the condition you are a student and you won't use flash. So it isn't a big deal for me, maybe other people want to look into this?
  • by pz ( 113803 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:28AM (#24614917) Journal

    My understanding, albeit a little hazy, is that building plans must be filed with local governmental offices, and that they are available for anyone to peruse. Of course, the building plans may or may not accurately match what was actually built, and it may be difficult to chase through all filed modifications and updates, but they should be available.

  • by SignOfZeta ( 907092 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:28AM (#24614919) Homepage

    The museum had a policy of no photographs. This is hardly uncommon: not only do many people find it annoying to stumble over photographers and deal with flashes while they're trying to look at art, but repeated exposure to light flashes can damage art.

    This is true. I fully respect the rules about no flash photography. That doesn't stop me from pitching a tripod and taking a shot with a slow shutter, though.

  • by ambystoma ( 1242118 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:28AM (#24614927)
    The UK version of Photographers' Rights [sirimo.co.uk]
  • by rufus t firefly ( 35399 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:29AM (#24614933) Homepage
    You should probably print a copy of The Photographer's Right [krages.com] and carry it with you. It should help out in situations like that.
  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:38AM (#24615111)
    This is true. I fully respect the rules about no flash photography.

    Unfortunately, for everyone of you there's a hundred dumb tourists who don't even know that they can turn off the flash of their compact camera.

  • by cei ( 107343 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:41AM (#24615159) Homepage Journal

    Actually, if you RTFA, the museum had explicitly made a big deal about how they were opening up more to photographers. Both the museum's website and a senior museum employee had confirmed such with the photographer. But one power-mad guy in charge of visitor relations, or somesuch, got on his high horse and shut the photographer down.

    Keep in mind, this was photography in the open atrium of the museum lobby... not pictures of individual pieces in the museum's collection.

  • Re:policy (Score:5, Informative)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:46AM (#24615257)

    I worked as a security guard all through my undergrad years (worked dorm security for the university I went to). For the most part it was a great job (quiet and great for study time), but the downside was that you were a total fall guy for your boss's stupidity. They would come up with some inane policy (or just tell you in private "Don't let people do such-and-such") and you were expected to enforce it, or get fired. But you could also get fired if you did enforce it and someone complained about the stupid policy. Most of the security guards I worked with had been "fired" at least once (and, almost always, promptly rehired 2 months later). The worst part was that we got blamed by the public for enforcing the stupid policies (as if we came up with them). I had people yell at me, get in my face, even had a few guys take a swing at me (watch out for the little guys, especially when they're drunk).

    So before people blast the guards, they should realize that guards often get conflicting messages and stupid directives from the top. They're just trying to keep their jobs.

  • Not being an idiot. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Carik ( 205890 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:48AM (#24615289)

    So, first of all, Thomas Hawk is clearly an idiot. He spends a lot of time bragging (on-line) about breaking the law. Why has he not been arrested -- or at least fined -- yet? I mean, yes, fine, break what laws you find necessary. But honestly... bragging about it on the internet?

    Ok, enough of that. The point here is that Mr. Hawk appears to be making a career out of being an obnoxious, loudmouthed nuisance who refuses to follow lawful directions on private property. Once he's pissed people off enough that they throw him out, he makes himself look good by posting the story online, where crowds of idiots show up to agree with him that he's super-cool for standing up to the man. Ego gratification at its finest.

    I bet that, in the case of the museum, if he had responded calmly and quietly, and agreed not to take pictures in that location, they would have let him stay, and take all the other pictures he had wanted. Of course, in some of the other cases he was completely within his rights, but from the sounds of it he didn't handle those any better. Probably because if he did, he wouldn't get to puff himself up online, where his crowds of adoring fans could tell him what a stud he is.

    Carry a copy of the "Photographer's Rights" pamphlet, speak quietly and politely to security guards, and don't waste your time arguing with people who don't have the authority to let you do what you want. It wastes your time, and annoys the guards.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 15, 2008 @10:49AM (#24615307)

    That's really not a substitute, you're not going to get the right shot like that.

    Because A) The perspective within the shot will be different and B) Film scanners don't deal so well with grainy photos, each bump in the iso means there's that much less detail to begin with.

    In a typical mall where things are sort of darkish, you're not going to have the luxury of shooting at iso100, and so you're already going to be at a bit of a disadvantage.

    Changing the length of the lens is a fairly significant restraint on the final image. Even if the final image encompasses the same amount of space as the original did.

  • by corsec67 ( 627446 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @11:16AM (#24615795) Homepage Journal

    There actually are property releases [thevlc.com], so you can't use the picture of a famous animal/new building without the appropriate release, if it is going to be used commercially.

    But, if it is going to be used in a newspaper or fine art print, again there isn't much that the owner of the horse can legally do there to get money.

  • by Ellis D. Tripp ( 755736 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @11:16AM (#24615797) Homepage

    , which was being used for root access to the constitution long before "terrorism" or "pedophilia".

    For example, the 4th amendment pretty much ceased to exist once people needed to piss in a cup to get a job.

  • Re:Rights and Wrongs (Score:3, Informative)

    by jjohnson ( 62583 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @11:37AM (#24616121) Homepage

    Two problems with your analysis:

    1. Hart was using a 14mm prime lens, an ultra-wide lens incapable of zooming in on anything. In order to photograph a woman's cleavage, the camera would have to be right in front of her chin, looking down (and then, the 14mm lens would still make her décolletage look like a hilly landscape).

    2. The museum that tossed Hart out had one month previously rescinded their policy on disallowing cameras in the gallery. Hart spoke to a member of the museum staff by phone prior to his visit to verify that it wouldn't cause any trouble for him to photograph wide-angle crowd shots.

    So, in this case, the guard (actually, director of guest services backed up by two guards) was pretty much completely in the wrong, both technically with regards to what Hart was doing and was capable of doing, and administratively, insofar as Hart was well within the museum's policies.

  • by goosman ( 145634 ) * on Friday August 15, 2008 @11:42AM (#24616223)
    Could you produce a link to these laws? Or define in what countries this might be illegal? I've taken lots of photos at many large airports, MSP, DTW, MEM to name a few. Plus several small airports. Never have I been told this was illegal, nor have I been stopped by guard, police, etc. for doing this.
  • by Miseph ( 979059 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @12:16PM (#24616783) Journal

    Um, no, it's not. That's just one of those things that everyone THINKS is illegal, including cops etc. Airports, at least the big ones, are public property, and as such it is explicitly NOT illegal to take photographs in them, because even if a law saying otherwise was passed tomorrow, it would absolutely fail on the basis of unconstitutionality.

    What IS illegal is taking photographs of essentially anything in order to commit a crime of any sort. In fact, there are very few things that one can do to plan a crime that isn't illegal because we have laws against conspiring to commit a crime. If the security guard legitimately believes you are planning a crime, he is welcome to file a police report so that it can be properly investigated. After the 8th or 9th time the cops have to deal with nothing reports, they'll probably just tell him to chill.

    Remember, if you actually aren't breaking any laws, it is your civic duty to require all government agents to comply with the laws they are supposed to uphold. If cops are stopping every car on a stretch of road and requesting to search cars, make them get a signed warrant from a sitting judge before they get so much as a glance at the glove compartment. The authorities violate our rights for just two reasons, the first is that they think they can, and the second is that the people giving the orders don't realize how much work it would be if they actually had to do their jobs. Make every cop get a warrant for every search, and I guarantee you'll see a lot less searches (which is the whole point, in case anybody missed it).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 15, 2008 @01:05PM (#24617597)


  • by lastchance_000 ( 847415 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @01:24PM (#24617899)

    Well, if it was for, say, a chamber of commerce brochure (i.e., used to generate commercial business), then the horse's owner was correct in asking for some compensation for the use of his horse's likeness. For a newspaper, no.

  • by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @01:46PM (#24618317) Homepage
    Yes you can publish the photos without a model release. IANAL, etc., so don't quote what I say below if you end up in court, but I have researched this for my own personal knowledge.

    The law isn't black and white -- there are certainly grey areas between what is clearly allowed and what is clearly not allowed. However, as I understand, taking photographs in public is allowed, even without a model release, even if the person photographed asks you to stop (although I suppose there is the possibility of harassment or stalking that you might want to consider). Taking photographs where there is a "reasonable expectation of privacy" is *not* allowed, although you can bet there is some wiggle room with the vague term "reasonable expectation of privacy". The less identifiable a person is in the photo (part of a group, face turned so that they cannot be identified, etc.), the less likely the photographer is to get in trouble for taking the photo. If, however, you intend to use a photo for commercial purposes, the person in the photograph is clearly identifiable (for example, a portrait), and/or the photograph would likely cause embarrassment or harm to the person photographed, then you'd better get a model release before publishing the photo. Also note that the term "commercial purposes" is a bit vague, too. As I understand, if you own a web site that is not primarily for the purpose of publishing photographs, then posting photos on the web site is not considered a commercial purpose. If you are selling photos on your web site, or if...ahem...photos of people are the whole reason for your web site's existence, then you should probably have a model release.

    Even if there is doubt about whether or not you should have a model release before publishing a particular photo, there is also the whole risk-management thing to consider -- what are the odds that the subject would actually sue you for taking the photo? First, they have to see the photo published somewhere. Second, they have to identify the photographer who took the photo. Third, they have to find a lawyer willing to represent them (and face it, if you are a starving artist, a lawyer probably won't be interested in taking the case, because you don't have any/many assets worth taking, so it won't be worth the lawyer's time to sue you). Fourth, even if the first three conditions can be met, the judge and/or jury still have to find in the plaintiffs favor, which is not a given.

    If you want to know more about the law covering model releases, just Google "photography model release". There are some really good resources on-line. If you are really serious and have something to lose if you, well, lose in court, then hire a lawyer to tell you what the law says.
  • Re:Trivial (Score:2, Informative)

    by UdoKeir ( 239957 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:26PM (#24619033)

    which basically includes things like compulsory kneeling to Mecca five times a day, and taking away your right to post asshat comments on Slashdot.

    No it doesn't. Stop perpetuating this republican lie.

    They want us out of Saudi Arabia.

  • by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @02:35PM (#24619185) Journal

    I haven't seen this pointed out anywhere else in these discussions, so I'll point it out now.

    Many "private" security guards are off-duty police. Sworn peace officers with the power of arrest and confiscation. Not at that moment in their official uniform, but nevertheless empowered and obligated to stop the commission of a crime and apprehend suspects, even when off-duty.

    So, if there is a law on the books restricting photography in the jurisdiction of the place you are at the moment you click the shutter, and the guard threatens to arrest you and confiscate the camera, he may not be blowin' smoke up your butt. And even if it's just "private-public" property like a mall, and he goes no further than asking you to leave or face trespassing charges, if you decline you may not have to wait for the cops to arrive and bust you.

  • by elsilver ( 85140 ) on Friday August 15, 2008 @04:46PM (#24621049) Homepage

    * I know there were some lawsuits in Chicago about people taking pictures of the sculptures displayed in Millenium Park and the artists were getting up in arms about their 'copyrighted works' being misued. I believe that went nowhere but this being Slashdot someone will come along with more information.

    Ask, and you shall receive:

    My understanding is that there is no prohibition on taking photographs of copyrighted works -- whether that's architecture or sculpture -- however in order to use that image in a commercial manner, you need a release from the copyright owner. So, I can take a picture of the scupture for my scrapbook, but not for the calendar I'm selling.

    Actually, the issue is slightly complicated by the fact that the item need to be more than merely incidental to the photo -- if I recall, commercial use of a photo of the Seattle Space Needle requires permission, however commercial use of a photo of the Seattle skyline (which includes the Space Needle) doesn't.

    With respect to a post elsewhere in this discussion, the general rule about being free to take a picture of anyone/anything from a public place doesn't extend to Quebec (or to France) where a person's privacy right trumps your right to take a picture. Apparently, the recent court decision in Quebec which said this has put the provinces newspaper photographers into a bit of a bind.


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