Photog Smackdown?

First in NYC, The New York Times reports that 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.

The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment.

Will this apply to tourists in Times Square? Good luck. I see a decline in tourist dollars to the fair metropolis.

Today I read in the Washington Post that “a developer in Silver Spring, MD has backed off it’s policy of forbidding photography in the area without its explicit permission.” The article continues:

A debate over the protection of civil liberties in public-private partnerships ignited when a security guard stopped amateur photographer Chip Py two weeks ago as he took pictures on Ellsworth Drive, a part of downtown developed by PFA Silver Spring LLC.

“Where do your rights end, and which rights are they going to selectively allow?” asked Wayan Vota, a writer for Metroblogging D.C. “Should they put up a sign that says ‘Your rights end here’?”

Vota is among the bloggers and photo rights groups organizing a Fourth of July “photo walk” protest with people taking pictures on Ellsworth Drive — the same day the developer plans to hold a picture contest with a banner welcoming photographers and offering prizes.

“Currently, they’re allowing photography when they feel like it and how they want it to happen,” Vota said. “That’s not photography consistent with First Amendment rights.”

What is going on here? I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I feel like in the case of NYC a very healthy litigious community is interested in ensuring that potential damage claims will be won at the highest dollar figure. Here in Silver Spring, a suburb of Washington, DC, corporate dollars are attempting to trump constitutional guarantees. I think our founding fathers would be ashamed to see how much financial interests have supplanted the rights of common citizens.

What can we do? Amy Stein suggests sending a firm message to Karen Oliver, the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting. On a similar note, for those of you unable or unwilling to make the July 4 protest in Silver Spring, may I recommend contacting the Montgomery County Executive‘s office? Why should the lawyers enforcing the Patriot Act have all the fun (does anyone else see the irony in these situations)? Support your democratic rights this 4 of July, be an active citizen!

This was my country once, and it may be yet, but something came between us and the sun.


One thought on “Photog Smackdown?

  1. Susan,

    Thanks for the post! Can we then expect you to join us in Downtown Silver Spring on July 4th?

    It will be a wonderfully visual declaration of photographic freedom.


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