Friday, December 24, 2010

More on Photography Rights

Police at the CN Fairview yard. Photographer unknown.
In August, Railfan & Railroad Managing Editor Steve Barry and a friend were detained by New York City police while waiting to take photographs of a special subway train. They were told that photography is not allowed in the subway system and cited for violating a section of the New York City Rules of Conduct:

Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used. Members of the press holding valid identification issued by the New York City Police Department are hereby authorized to use necessary ancillary equipment. All photographic activity must be conducted in accordance with the provisions of this Part.

It is not clear to me whether they were using tripods or lights.

Anyway, the charges have been dropped and Steve is suing for $50,000. More details here.

I wasn't there so I don't know what actually happened. I know I would have acted differently than Mr. Barry did, but that's not any kind of slam to him. I am not a very confrontational person.

What I find interesting about the situation is the amount of what I call "railfan entitlement" being expressed in some forums. Apparently a minority of railfans feel they should not be "hassled" when they trespass to take their photos. These few bad apples make the rest of us look bad.

I would remind those people that the railways are there to do a job, not for our entertainment, and to feel grateful for the privilege we have to see them at their work. Yes, it's my right to be able to take photos but it's also the right of the railway to do their work without interference. These rights collide on occasion and the results aren't pretty.

Know your rights, but don't be a jerk.

I have written about photography rights here, here, and here.

Finally, I ran across a great article: Photography is not a crime. I encourage you to read it.


Robert in Port Townsend said...

Well, you can thank "King George" and his minions for all this nonsensical behavior.

9-11 scrambled our eggs, and we went nuts abridging everyone's rights, no matter how trivial.

The sad part is, that marginal cops seize the opportunity to abuse authority.

And who better to pick on than some surly looking rail photographers. Easy to catch, they are usually grazing in place.

Like an SP Special Agent who rousted me at the Old Taylor Yard in LA said when he caught me shooting, from a public street no less, "So do you get your rocks off looking a trains?"

Pass the cranberries!

Jack said...

I've found it interesting for quite a long time how a person can have such a strong sense of entitlement. I'm not normal in this respect, because I always feel like you should follow the rules. In that respect, I'm fairly boring, I'm afraid. Anyway, photography has always been an interesting legal topic.

You know how you go to professional photographers to get pictures sometimes? Do they own those pictures or are you able to reproduce your own likeness as many times as you like, even though they took the picture?

Interesting topic.

Canadian Train Geek said...

I agree, Robert, the panic after 9/11 led to a lot of rights being abridged.

Jack, when you go to a professional photographer, they generally own all rights to the pictures. They charge you little to nothing for the actual shoot and make their money on the prints. That is why you can't go to Wal-Mart and copy their photos. There is probably a way to hire them to take the photo but have you retain all rights, but the shoot cost would be higher.