UPDATE (7 May 2012): Thanks to Kyle Hillman for writing in with news that the city of Chicago has announced that they will not enforce these eavesdropping laws during demonstrations at NATO events this month. In March of this year, too, a judge ruled that the law barring recording police activity was unconstitutional. Hopefully this law is not long for the world…
Original post: If you’re planning to cover the NATO events in Chicago in a couple of weeks, you need to be aware of Illinois laws regarding police activity (the main G8 meeting was moved to Camp David, but the NATO Summit will continue as planned). We’ve covered this issue before, but it bears repeating. Under Illinois eavesdropping laws, a number of people have been arrested and prosecuted for recording audio (some in the course of recording video) of police activity. While Massachusetts does not prosecute people for openly recording police activity, Illinois has gone after individuals for both secret and opening recording of police duties. A proposed law in Illinois, HB3944, “exempts from an eavesdropping violation the recording of a peace officer who is performing a public duty in a public place and speaking at a volume audible to the unassisted human ear.” There’s a strong argument to be made that even secret recording of police activity is vital to the public interest in fighting police abuse and corruption; it’s a frightening prospect when police work to undermine the public’s protection against their power. But, in the meantime, it remains illegal in Illinois to record audio of police in the state. If you’re planning to capture video or audio at the upcoming Chicago events, be very careful.
While we’re at it (and thinking of a photographer friends’ experiences in Seattle covering Occupy protests yesterday), get acquainted with your rights as a photographer and journalist. Time Lightbox recently published a handy list of links, many of which will be familiar to long-time readers of this blog:
- The National Press Photographers Association’s Advocacy homepage
- The ACLU’s Know Your Rights Photographers page (they helped make the ridiculous and informative video above)
- Attorney Bert P. Krages’ Photographers’ Rights Pamphlet
- Carlos Miller’s Photography Is Not a Crime blog (which just celebrated its 5-year anniversary; I’d wish another 5 years of success to Miller’s blog if it didn’t mean 5 more years of abuse of photographers…)
Stay safe out there. None of these resources will protect you when the police or anyone else is hitting you or destroying your gear.