The right to take photographs is under assault now
more than ever. People are being stopped, harassed, and even
intimidated into handing over their personal property simply because
they were taking photographs of subjects that made other people
uncomfortable. Recent examples have included photographing industrial
plants, bridges, and bus stations. For the most part, attempts to
restrict photography are based on misguided fears about the supposed
dangers that unrestricted photography presents to society.
Ironically, unrestricted photography by private
citizens has played an integral role in protecting the freedom,
security, and well-being of all Americans. Photography in the United
States has contributed to improvements in civil rights, curbed abusive
child labor practices, and provided important information in
investigating crimes. These images have not always been pretty and
often have offended the sensibilities of governmental and commercial
interests who had vested interests in a status quo that was adverse to
most other people.
Photography has not contributed to a decline in
public safety or economic vitality in the United States. When people
think back on the acts of terrorism that have occurred over the last
forty years, none have depended on or even involved photography.
Restrictions on photography would not have prevented any of these acts.
Similarly, some corporations have a history of abusing the rights of
photographers under the guise of protecting their trade secrets. These
claims are almost always meritless because entities are required to
keep trade secrets from public view if they want to protect them. Trade
secret laws do not give anyone the right to restrain photographers from
taking photographs in public places.
The Photographer’s Right is a downloadable
guide that is loosely based on the Bust Card and the Know Your Rights
pamphlet that used to be available on the ACLU website. It may be
downloaded and printed out using Adobe Acrobat Reader. You may make
copies and carry them your wallet, pocket, or camera bag to give you
quick access to your rights and obligations concerning confrontations
over photography. You may distribute the guide to others ,provided that
such distribution is not done for commercial gain and credit is given
to the author.