The Fight For Your Rights

Wood Duck FlapPhotographers are not the enemies, but are still being harassed:

  • An amateur photographer who also is an attorney (who asked not to be identified) attended the Hmong New Year’s Festival at Cal Expo (the State fairgrounds) in Sacramento, CA, on Sunday, November 29.  At about 3:00 PM, the photographer reports that he was accosted by two members of the Sacramento County’s Probation Department’s Gang Unit. They asked the photographer if he was associated with any media or organizations, and inquired whether he had ever been arrested or had warrants out on him.  He saw no notices that photography wasn’t allowed and he saw other photogs there. When the photographer wanted to know why he was being questioned, one officer said something to the effect that there were “a lot of child molesters around.”  The photographer reports that he then was surrounded by a ring of police and the officers demanded his driver’s license.  They then called him into headquarters to see if there were “any wants or warrants” out on him (which there weren’t).  They demanded that he give them his camera to see if I had taken any “inappropriate pictures.”  He complied out of fear but got his camera back with all of the photos.  From what the photographer reported, he broke no law !
  • The Public Affairs Director of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, is claiming that:

1)All images taken on Golden Gate Bridge property in non-public areas including the tower tops are prohibited from being shown/placed on ANY internet site and are not allowed to be used in ANY commercial use whatsoever.

2)Any other images taken on the property of the Golden Gate Bridge in public areas requires a permit (that should have been obtained in advance) that costs $2,000 prior to be allowed to be used for ANY commercial purpose.

The Golden Gate Bridge website posts a notice on the Photo Library page that states: “Photographs may not be used for any purpose on any web site without express permission from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.”  But no basis for this rule is provided and it doesn’t appear to be based on security concerns because the GGB website provides lots of photos of the bridge as well as a virtual tour.  At least the GGB doesn’t try to assert power over your photos of the bridge taken from off the property. The home page of the GGB website provides a notice that: “The Golden Gate Bridge name is protected by Streets and Highway Code Section 27563.”  This law is similar to trademark law – you can’t use a trademark “which use has a tendency to cause confusion, mistake, or deception . . . as to the origin of goods or services, or has a tendency to falsely represent or suggest an association or connection . . . .”

    • Richard Giles reports that the International Olympic Committee sent him a cease and desist letter requesting that he  take down his Beijing Olympics photos on Flickr.  Check Richard’s blog entries for what happened.  Of note, here is a photo that I took during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics along with the tickets for one of the events. The rules back then stated that “Images of the Olympic Games obtained by Spectators with cameras, video and/or audio devices or other means cannot be used for broadcast, publication or any commercial purposes under any circumstances.”  Of course, if you have access to an Olympic event or facility without a ticket, then you are not bound by this agreement.

Olympic PhotoOlympic Tickets

    • A post on from last year tells of an Alabama city that is charging commercial photographers for a permit to take photos of the outside of only three of its buildings between 9 and 5.

In sum, these efforts to control photography or the use of the photographs seem misdirected. There are more important concerns to address!

Thanks to Lysha Stanford, Rob Bugary, and Philip Bowen for submitting these topics.

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