Category Archive: law
Photographers, city council members sue NYC for systematic violations of civil rights during Occupy Wall StreetOct 23, 2012 by M. Scott Brauer 1 Comment »
“The claims arise from a series of incidents in connection with Occupy Wall Street protests beginning in and around September 17, 2011 and continuing to the present day in which the City of New York in concert with various private and public entities have employed Officers of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) and others acting under color of state law, to intentionally and willfully subject Plaintiffs and the public to, among other things, violations of rights to free speech, assembly, freedom of the press, false arrest, excessive force, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution and, furthermore, purposefully obstructing Plaintiffs carrying out their duties as elected officials and members of the press, including oversight of the New York City Police Department.” -Rodriguez Et Al v. Winski Et Al. First Amended Complaint (pdf, scribd link)
We’ve written before about photographers being abused while covering protests in New York City. Now, photographers Stephanie Keith, Charles Meacham, the National Press Photographers’ Association (see their blog about the case), five NYC city council members, and others, have joined in a federal lawsuit against various New York City entities and officials, including Mayor Bloomberg, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, and a number of identified and unidentified police officers, as well as JP Morgan Chase and other businesses in the Occupy Wall Street area, alleging that they engaged in the intentional obstruction of news-gathering activities, the business of elected officials, and Constitutionally-protected protest activities. The complaint can be read in it’s entirety here. In an NPPA press release about the lawsuit, a quotation summarizes photographer Stephanie Keith’s complaints against the city and others, “I joined this lawsuit because as a working journalist I’ve been arrested, thrown to the ground, hit with batons and yelled at by the NYPD while doing my job on assignment. I have seen my fellow journalists being treated this way as well. Why should journalists be subjected to trauma inducing harassment on the job?”
This policy enforcement capability is useful for a variety of reasons, including for example to disable noise and/or light emanating from wireless devices (such as at a movie theater), for preventing wireless devices from communicating with other wireless devices (such as in academic settings), and for forcing certain electronic devices to enter “sleep mode” when entering a sensitive area. -U.S. Patent No. 8,254,902
U.S. Patent No. 8,254,902, Apparatus and methods for enforcement of policies upon a wireless device, was recently issued to Apple, Inc, makers of the iPhone and other wireless devices. The patent describes a method for restricting the function of a wireless device upon the occurrence of specific events such as when the device enters a specified area; that is, it will be possible to remotely disable all sounds on patrons’ cell phones at a movie theater or to disable the camera function of a phone when the phone is in a concert venue.
Here’s an example from the patent of a scenario in which such function-disabling devices might be deployed: “a wireless camera hidden in an area or brought in by another individual (e.g., a cellular phone camera) where privacy is normally reasonably expected such as a department store changing room, bathroom or locker room is one example of a significant threat to such privacy…The command instructs the device to enter into a “lockdown” mode. Different facilities may enact different “lockdown” modes. For instance, a locker room facility may issue a command that prevents use of a cellular phone camera or laptop computer camera while in that area, thereby preventing surreptitious imaging of customers/users. Customers of such facilities may be willing to pay extra for the peace of mind associated with knowing that they are not being secretly photographed.”
This specific case seems relatively fine; I don’t want people taking pictures of me in my gym locker room. And there are plenty of legitimate uses for this sort of technology; many device manufacturers produce cell phones without cameras or laptops without webcams for use in high security business or government environments. But we’re living in an era in which photographers are regularly placed under suspicion, accosted, or apprehended by security guards and police and the general public for taking pictures of publicly viewable things from public spaces (we’ve covered this a lot in the past, and Carlos Miller’s Photography Is Not A Crime blog is a good one-stop shop for regular updates on this sort of thing). I can easily imagine shopping malls, amusement parks, concert venues, convention sites, skyscrapers, and other highly controlled areas implementing these technological restrictions on picture taking in order to prevent unauthorized pictures from getting out. Or, in a perversion of the old Kodak Picture Spot or an odd twist to the “Free Speech Zones“, pictures might be allowed only in specific locations that provide the appropriate branding or appearance that the site’s owners wish to impart in tourists’ photos. I never like slippery slope arguments; there’s no telling when, how, or if this technology will ever be used. However, it will be an interesting one to watch.
University of Georgia student newspaper staff walks out after pressure to take grip-and-grin photos and focus on ‘good’ news rather than journalismAug 16, 2012 by M. Scott Brauer No Comments »
- Content that is ABOUT our audience doing something unique, helpful, outstanding, new,
dramatic, ie scholarships for freshman.
- Content that our readers have asked for, ie. how to save money, how to join a club, where to
tind a job, what’s going on (events), what’s new. We have a list to start. Build the list by talking
to our audience.
- Content that catches people or organizations doing bad things. I guess this is ‘journalism’…
If in question, have more GOOD than BAD.” -Expectations of Editorial Director at The Red and Black, 8/15/12
Both Matt and I got our starts in student journalism, together at the official student newspaper at our university, and me at an unofficial student newspaper. One of the most tenuous holds of freedom of the press and speech in the US is in the classrooms of student newspapers, stemming from the landmark court case Hazelwood School District et al. v. Kuhlmeier et al., 484 U.S. 260 (1988). Today, students in the editorial staff at the University of Georgia who run the independent newspaper the Red and Black have walked out after new regulations (may require login to your google account) were imposed on the paper by the paper’s editorial board. At issue, the new regulations require more good news than bad, where bad means “content that catches people or organizations doing bad things” and refers to this sarcastically as “journalism” in scare quotes; require that the paper not print large photos or photos that don’t clearly show the subject; focus on attracting submitted content from readers; and print grip-and-grin photos of the paper’s audience. While the editorial board says these regulations are just a draft, now-former Editor-in-Chief Polina Marinova said in her public resignation letter, that all content to be published by the Red and Black would be reviewed by a non-student Editorial Director prior to publication online or in print. Former student newspaper staff have created their own online publication in the wake of their walkout, Red and Dead.Poynter has more coverage, as does the Student Press Law Center. The Red and Black has released a statement in response to the student staff walkouts.
The whole situation reads like a microcosm of what’s been happening at newspapers across the country as staffs are gutted and institutional knowledge is lost in favor of cheap and quick content.
Covering the DNC and RNC? NPPA has a handy legal and practical guide for the conventions and protestsAug 14, 2012 by M. Scott Brauer No Comments »
While covering these events police may ask to see your images, recordings or files. Be aware that you do not have to consent to such a request. They may try to intimidate, coerce or threaten you into doing so but “consent” must be voluntary. You should know that absent consent or “exigent circumstances” an officer may not seize your camera. Exigent circumstances only exist where an officer has probable cause to believe a crime has been committed AND that you have captured evidence of that crime on your camera AND that there is also a strong likelihood that such evidence may be lost if the camera is not seized.
Are you planning on covering the Republican or Democratic National Conventions at the end of August and beginning of September? You should be aware of legal and practical issues that may arise during the process of documenting both the conventions and the protests around the conventions. The National Press Photographer’s Association has a handy guide that covers the basics of covering both conventions, ranging from what to do if you’re arrested to how to stay safe in a crowd to dealing with the heat. The guide also includes a brief survey of local and federal ordinances and laws that will apply to people on the scene and educated guesses on how police may treat journalists based on recent actions of police in Chicago during the NATO summit protests earlier this year. For instance, items that could be considered weapons will not be allowed close to the convention areas and include items photographers might bring along such as tripod, monopods, and ladders.
Stay safe out there!
“Slowly but surely the courts are recognizing that recording on-duty police is a protected First Amendment activity. But in the meantime, police around the country continue to intimidate and arrest citizens for doing just that. So if you’re an aspiring cop watcher you must be uniquely prepared to deal with hostile cops.” -Gizmodo, 7 Rules for Recording Police
We’ve covered restrictions on photographers before, especially regarding coverage of police. Gizmodo’s recent article, 7 Rules for Recording Police, is an excellent collection of warnings, advice, and tactics, for photographers dealing with police confrontations. The tips all fall under the following headings:
- Know the Law (Wherever You Are)
- Don’t Secretly Record Police
- Respond to “Shit Cops Say”
- Don’t Share Your Video with Police
- Prepare to be Arrested
- Master Your Technology
- Don’t Point Your Camera Like a Gun
But more than these headings, the article offers practical advice about what do in particular situations. Under “Respond to ‘Shit Cops Say’,” they advise answering a police’s confrontational “What are you doing?” in a peaceful and information manner. Don’t escalate the matter by responding “I’m recording you to make sure you’re doing your job right” or ignoring the question. Instead, say something like “Officer, I’m not interfering. I’m asserting my First Amendment rights. You’re being documented and recorded offsite.” Of course, all of this is well and good when you’re reading the article at your computer; in the heat of the moment, you can expect things to get ugly and for your rights to be violated. The guide covers that, too. It offers tips for using a smartphone to simultaneously archive images and video online or what to do when you get detained.
Well worth a read!
Photographers watch out! You could be arrested for recording police activity at Chicago NATO events (UPDATED)May 2, 2012 by M. Scott Brauer 4 Comments »
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.
“On a very literal reading of the terms and conditions, there’s certainly an argument that the IOC could run that you wouldn’t be able to post pictures to Facebook. … It would appear that if you or I attended an event, we could only share our photos with our aunties around the kitchen table.” -Paul Jordan, legal adviser on Olympics-related regulations to sponsor and non-sponsor businesses, speaking to the Guardian
The 2012 London Olympics have been dubbed the first “social” Olympics, whatever that means. But, don’t be misguided and think that means spectators can post their photos and videos to facebook, or that athletes can tweet about their competition. There a whole host of restrictions on what sort of imagery, branding, and tweeting can and can’t be shared from the upcoming summer Olympics. Tickets to the Games state, ““Images, video and sound recordings of the Games taken by a Ticket Holder cannot be used for any purpose other than for private and domestic purposes and a Ticket Holder may not license, broadcast or publish video and/or sound recordings, including on social networking websites and the Internet more generally.” Olympic officials admit that these photo restrictions imposed on spectators are “unenforceable,” but they remain in place to protect organizations who have purchased media rights to the coverage. And in line with laws such as the Olympic Symbol etc. (Protection) Act 1995 and the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006, “branding police” will also be deployed in the Olympic Village to cover up the logos of companies that are not official sponsors of the games and make sure that non-affiliated companies don’t use the Olympics to drum up business. To report violations of any of these restrictions, there’s a website (inaccessible to the public) available to people involved in the Olympics that would fit right at home in Orwell: Olympic Games Monitoring.
Have you ever been stiffed by a client? There isn’t a lot of recourse for freelancers beyond sending in invoice after invoice after invoice. A New York state law has now been proposed which would hold deadbeat clients responsible for money owed to freelancers. The Freelancer Payment Protection Act (S4129/A6698) aims to help out freelancers who haven’t paid.
The legislation is gaining traction: it’s passed through the New York State Assembly and has gotten support from both Democrat and Republican state legislators. If the act becomes a law, freelancers will be able to file complaints with the New York Department of Labor about clients who have not paid their bills and allow them to collect 100% of the fees owed to them in addition to legal fees and interest. It’s a small step, and would only apply to freelancers in New York, but it isn’t a small matter. According to the Freelancers Union, “in 2009, New York State’s self-employed lost $4.7 billion due to client nonpayment, and the state lost $323 million in tax revenue.”
You can help in a few ways. Sign your name in support of the Freelancer Payment Protection Act; if you’re in New York, contact your state legislators and tell them to support the Freelancer Payment Protection Act; if you’re anywhere else, contact your legislators and suggest a similar law.
Related required viewing: Fuck you, Pay me – a discussion of adventures in contracts, negotiation, and payment
“While I’ve kept this story quiet for more than two years, it is my hope that by sharing it, my colleagues in the photography world will understand that you can fight for your rights and win. It’s not easy. But it can be done.”
Shepard Fairey, of Obey Giant and the Obama Hope poster fame, is now well known to steal the images on which he bases his artwork. In 2011, Fairey and the Associated Press reached a settlement in their legal battle over Fairey’s appropriation of Mannie Garcia‘s photo for the Obama Hope poster. Fairey now faces jail time in a related criminal case after pleading guilty to charges relating to document destruction and manufacturing evidence in the civil suit.
Now, photographer Dina Douglas has come forward with some details regarding her dispute, and eventual settlement, with Shepard Fairey over Fairey’s usage of her image of a cancer survivor. According to Douglas, Fairey contacted the photographer and they agreed to terms of usage for the painter to base an image on the photographer’s work. Fairey did not follow the terms of their agreement, which included an image credit for the photographer. The law was on the photographer’s side, and after months of legal back and forth, Douglas and Fairey reached a confidential settlement. The details of the settlement aren’t revealed, but Douglas now receives credit alongside Fairey’s artwork. You can read more details of the case at the photographers blog. If nothing else, this serves as another example that photographers can fight for their rights and win.
We wrote previously about Florida and Iowa lawmakers trying to make it illegal to record or photograph agricultural operations without the farm owner’s consent. Now, the Iowa bill has been signed into law, making it illegal to access farms without the owner’s consent and further making it illegal lie on farm job applications in order to gain access to farms. While the law no longer has language specifically addressing photography or video recording, both opponents and supporters of the law say that its intent is to prevent videos of farm operations from being made. Under the law, fraudulently entering a farm would be punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $1,500 fine. Penalties increase for subsequent offenses. Activists have vowed to continue making videos of alleged animal cruelty, while supporters of the law say it strikes a balance in protecting farmers without preventing workers from reporting animal abuse through preexisting channels.
More states continue to press for similar laws. The Utah State House of Representatives recently passed Utah HB 187, which makes it a crime to record images or sounds of farm activity without the farm owner’s consent. Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and New York, are also considering such legislation.
As before, if you live in any of these states, contact your legislators.