Photography is not a crime, and can help solve crimes

Matt Blaze:

Personal photos helped solve the Boston Marathon case, so cameras will be banned at Kentucky Derby for security reasons.

Somehow after 9/11 people decided that cameras were terrorist tools, so banning them became part of the ongoing security theater – things that do nothing to make us secure, but that send a message that Something Is Being Done. It’s what John Farnam called speed bump governing. It doesn’t stop criminals, but it inconveniences and diminishes the rights of people who obey the law.

Supreme Court sides against Illinois in police taping case

A win for the good guys. Supreme Court rejects plea to ban taping of police in Illinois:

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from the Cook County state’s attorney to allow enforcement of a law prohibiting people from recording police officers on the job.

The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that found that the state’s anti-eavesdropping law violates free speech rights when used against people who tape law enforcement officers.

Via Michael Silence.

DHS Directive: “must allow individuals to photograph the exterior of federally owned or leased facilities from publicly accessible spaces”

NY Times‘See, Officer, I Can Too Take That Picture’:

In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be anything exceptional about this statement. But nothing has been ideal for photographers since 9/11. The mere invocation of “security” seems to trump every other consideration, including logic and the law.

That’s why the New York Civil Liberties Union was so pleased with the settlement it reached in October with the Federal Protective Service of the Department of Homeland Security. (“You Can Photograph That Federal Building,” Oct. 18, 2010.) In the settlement, the agency pledged to inform its officers of the public’s general right to photograph the exteriors of federal courthouses.

Now, the civil liberties group has received a redacted version of the directive that was sent out last year. Significantly, it embraces federal buildings — not just courthouses — nationwide.

Big win for photographer’s rights at federal buildings

NY TimesYou Can Photograph That Federal Building:

Under the settlement, announced Monday by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Federal Protective Service said that it would inform its officers and employees in writing of the “public’s general right to photograph the exterior of federal courthouses from publicly accessible spaces” and remind them that “there are currently no general security regulations prohibiting exterior photography by individuals from publicly accessible spaces, absent a written local rule, regulation or order.”

This isn’t a new right for photographers or a change in the law. This is just recognition of the fact that there was never a general proscription against photographing federal buildings. Things have gotten so bad that recognizing the absence of prohibitive laws now has to be considered a victory.

Hat tip to SayUncle.

TSA Equates Photography with Terrorism

Michael SilenceMedia protest Fed poster: photogs = terrorists:

The National Press Photographers’ Association is protesting a Transportation Security Administration poster and counter card depicting a photographer as a terrorist. The poster shows someone in a dark hooded sweatshirt pointing a large camera at a small jet, with the warning, “Don’t let our planes get into the wrong hands.”

As if there weren’t enough reasons to dislike the TSA.

Anthony Graber (Motorcycle Helmetcam Guy) Cleared of Wiretapping Charges

Good news. Graber was filming his motorcycle ride when a cop pulled him over. The camera kept rolling during the arrest and Graber posted the video on the Internet. He was charged with wiretapping for videotaping his own arrest. Today a judge threw out the charges.

PreviouslyPhotography is Not a Crime: High Speed Motorcycle Edition

Word Getting Out that Photography Is Not a Crime

Instapundit gets the word out to Popular Mechanics readers.

Legally, it’s pretty much always okay to take photos in a public place as long as you’re not physically interfering with traffic or police operations. As Bert Krages, an attorney who specializes in photography-related legal problems and wrote Legal Handbook for Photographers, says, “The general rule is that if something is in a public place, you’re entitled to photograph it.” What’s more, though national-security laws are often invoked when quashing photographers, Krages explains that “the Patriot Act does not restrict photography; neither does the Homeland Security Act.” But this doesn’t stop people from interfering with photographers, even in settings that don’t seem much like national-security zones.

Bloggasm Interview: Carlos Miller of Photography Is Not a Crime

An internet activist’s war against police brutality:

But if the blog has become an easy venue for people to vent their negative feelings on cops, it has also demonstrably helped in saving those who otherwise would have been found guilty of untrue charges. For instance, Miller was one of the only ones to initially report on an absurd case in which a photographer was arrested for taking photographs of Amtrak trains — for an Amtrak photograph contest. As one can probably guess, many of Miller’s blog posts are based on similarly bizarre Kafkaesque situations. After he highlighted the story, the photographer in question appeared on the Colbert Report and the charges were swiftly dropped.

Newspaper editors have repeatedly claimed that the loss of editorial jobs will lead to a less watchful press, one in which government institutions will be able to get away with more unscrupulous activities with little independent oversight. But Miller arguably highlights more police abuse than a single reporter would have even in the heyday of newspapers. “I’m writing about cases that the mainstream media, for the most part, they ignored,” he said, noting that traditional journalists will eventually pick up a story once it has gained traction in the blogosphere.

“Are Cameras the New Guns?”

From paperghost via Adrian,

GizmodoAre Cameras the New Guns?

In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.

Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.

The legal justification for arresting the “shooter” rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where “no expectation of privacy exists” (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.

From that article I discovered there’s a Web site called Photography is Not a Crime.

Also from paperghost, the same story is playing out in the UK:

BBCIs It a Crime to Take Pictures?

From today, anyone taking a photograph of a police officer could be deemed to have committed a criminal offence. That is because of a new law – Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act – which has come into force.

It permits the arrest of anyone found “eliciting, publishing or communicating information” relating to members of the armed forces, intelligence services and police officers, which is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.

That means anyone taking a picture of one of those people could face a fine or a prison sentence of up to 10 years, if a link to terrorism is proved.

I can imagine a sci-fi story where the protagonist has to obtain an unregistered camera or pirated camera ROMs.