Know Your Rights As A Photographer
As my family and I exited the Circleline ferry for our visit to Ellis Island, I spotted a camera crew dart up the walkway and into the building. At first I dismissed it as a small documentary company trying to protect their equipment from the rain, but as I found out later, this was much bigger than PBS, so big that it resulted in my confrontation with a network-television thug.
Before the tour started, the guide explained to us that the film crews running around the building were shooting parts of an upcoming episode of "The Apprentice." The task, as he understood it, was to take photos of the exhibits and other parts of the building, and then each team would create a brochure for Ellis Island that the they would try and sell on the streets of Manhattan. The team who sold the most would win. Honestly, I'm a bit puzzled by this task, or the ranger got the story completely wrong (or I heard wrong?). Who would buy brochures to a historic landmark when they should probably be free to the public? Plus, the dude holding the camera in the photo doesn't look like any of the wannabe apprentii. But I digress ...
I thought it'd be cool to get some pics of the action -- not your typical Ellis Island experience -- so as the tour continued, I snapped a shot or two of the winded camera crews running around the building. At one point a staffer caught me taking pictures and sent a thug over to apply the usual Trumpian intimidation tactics.
I told him I hadn't taken any pictures (I lied), and he asked to see my card. Being the nice guy that I am (and only having my wife and mom as backup), I showed him about five shots, none of which had any of the "offending" footage.
But what if he had seen shots of his top secret filming expedition that happened to be in a public place, where virtually every visitor had some kind of visual recording device? What are a photographer's rights?
Attorney Bert P. Krages II, author of Legal Handbook for Photographers, has published an article on his site titled, "Your Rights and Remedies When Stopped or Confronted for Photography."
According to the article:
"The general rule in the United States is that anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public place or places where they have permission to take photographs."
I was in a public place. Enough said (as far as I'm concerned). But each situation is unique and it is important to know your rights if a similar situation occurs. So, I at least recommend reading Attorney Krages' one page article, and consider buying the book or even consulting a lawyer if you'd like more detailed information. If you plan on taking pictures for commercial use, you may also want to invest in Allworth Press' "Business and Legal Forms for Photographers" by attorney and Allworth president Tad Crawford.
So, go forth brave photographer and snap away, confident that any beatings you may receive in public places from thugs who claim they are only doing their job are baseless and grounds for legal action. And -- this is important to remember -- take a couple of shots for evidence BEFORE he rams the camera down your throat.