Photo Attorney

Apr 23, 2008

Odd Photographer = Terrorist?

This is a poster from the
United Kingdom's Metropolitan Police's
new advertising awareness campaign,
asking the public to be vigilant about
people taking photographs.

The BBC recently reported on how photographers in the UK are being hassled, stopped, and/or questioned about their photography. With a poster like above, it's no wonder that photographers are under suspicion. As pointed out in the BBC article, in days where most everyone has a cell phone camera, it's ironic that the larger your camera, the more likely that you'll be hassled. Terrorists are prone to be more discreet.

Like the US, photographers in the UK have the right to photograph most things in public. But both nations have laws that allow government personnel to question and investigate certain persons, including photographers, within limits. Further, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security published a memo asking "owners and operators of of the nation's critical infrastructure/key resource facilities [to] provide reporting . . . on the following types of suspicious activities potentially indicative of pre-operational terrorist planning: . . . [such as] photographing or videotaping assets . . . [and] any surveillance activity of sensitive operations, including photography, videotaping . . . ." The UK has a law that allows "police officers [to] randomly stop someone without reasonable suspicion, providing the area has been designated a likely target for an attack." See Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. One such incident was reported on a blog, (but note that the law does not make street photography itself illegal, as the title suggests). One UK photographer has protested "to highlight the failure of law enforcement officers to protect media freedoms."

Fortunately, Bert Krages, Esq., has prepared a downloadable PDF file that outlines photographers' rights in the US. The Arts Law Centre of Australia provides a "Street Photographer's Rights" guide and Andrew Nemeth, Esq., covers legal issues that apply to street photography in NSW Australia. Linda Macpherson, Esq., has written the "UK Photographers Rights PDF."

As a result, some are using the Internet to share information and stories, and to protest and protect photographers' rights. Check out the "War on Photography" blog, "" and the "Picture New York" website.

Be sure to cooperate with police officers as much as possible when stopped. But you also should know your rights and do what you can to protect your rights if they are violated.

Thanks to Steven Joerger for submitting the BBC article.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Technorati Tags: