A couple of articles came out recently about photography in public places vs. law enforcement and private security firms. First, Popular Mechanics had an article entitled Taking Photos in Public Places Is Not A Crime.
The Washington Post also published an article on Freedom of Photography.
Both articles mostly address the issue of people photographing buildings, people and police doing their work. The Popular Mechanics article did mention an Amtrak incident.
The gist of the articles is that if you are standing in a public area, you can take pictures of whatever you like. This right, like most others, is not absolute; you can't jump into the middle of an arrest, for example, or otherwise interfere in police work. But in general if you are not in someone's way, snap away.
This is relevant to this blog because we as railfans face the same issues. The railways are concerned about trespassing (rightly so) and also about their public image. Some railfans have been accosted by railway police or private security firms, in some cases rightly but in many cases for no legal reason. Railfans need to ensure they are not trespassing when they are taking their pictures and video. We also need to know our rights.
I also wrote about this in May 2009.