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Another Photographer-Unfriendly New York Law

First it was rules against photography in subways, then of bridges. Now you’re going to love this beastie:

New York City May Seek Permit and Insurance for Many Kinds of Public Photography.

New rules being considered by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and insurance.

Under the rules, the two or more people would not actually have to be filming, but could simply be holding an ordinary camera and talking to each other.

Rather than actually define things “ostensibly to avoid creating loopholes that could be exploited by professional filmmakers and photographers,” they leave the rules vague enough that average Joe Tourist or Jane NY Resident can be pestered by semi-knowledgeable cops, thereby furthering the idiotic idea that photographers’ rights on public property should be limited.

That’s right — you and your friend could be waiting in line to get in the Empire State Building elevator or mourning at Ground Zero, and just happen to have cameras in hand… and now you’re a criminal.

And of course some officers will try to blame terrorism, and some people will buy that, when the whole thing just stinks of a government trying to find a way to make a buck off citizens using public property.

Note that it’s not being done by any security agency but rather by the Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting – a group that you’d think would understand the need for creative rights. You know, just like the RIAA Companies care about the rights of musical artists.

This thing is vague enough to be both a money grab and a tool to randomly hassle anybody with a camera.


  1. Okay now that photography is illegal, how much safer are we? Did DHS lower the alert level? Can we go to green now that cameras won’t cause terrorism?

    Right after 9/11 I recall the government pleading with people to develop the film they had shot to see what it might have in it. I’d think Americans would now required to carry cameras instead.

    What about cell phones with cameras? Are we breaking the law for carrying our cell phones 14 hours a day where ever we go because they all have cameras now?

  2. As an art photographer, I regularly have to file for a permit. I have the requisite insurance, so it’s no big deal to file the certificate of insurance with the film commission.

    BTW, the requirement has been there for a long time, what they did was clear up the language about who needed a permit.

    I lean strongly libertarian and I do think they’d painted to broad a brush. Permits are intended to mitigate the city’s liability for filming going on in public places, and (similar to parade permits) allow situations that create a traffic nuisance to be planned for.

    However, this really is just a clarification of an existing “time, place, and manner” restriction and a clarification of an existing regulation, not some new Draconian anti-photographer law.

    I think the filing fee, however, is ridiculous. There should be an exemption for small productions that will not block sidewalks, business entrances, streets, etc.

  3. As I understand it, though, the problem is that they didn’t “clear up the language about who needed a permit,” they left it vague enough that everyone’s included.

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