The Importance of Photographer’s Rights – New digital camera? Know how, where you can use it: USA Today has an excellent overview by Andrew Kantor of what your rights are as a photographer including links to the Photographers’ Guide to Privacy, the Missouri Bar’s Journalist’s Right of Privacy Primer and Bert Krages’ (an attorney in Oregon) excellent pdf, The Photographer’s Right.

From Kantor’s article:

“Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. Aside from sensitive government buildings (e.g., military bases), if you’re on public property you can photograph anything you like, including private property. There are some limits — using a zoom lens to shoot someone who has a reasonable expectation of privacy isn’t covered — but no one can come charging out of a business and tell you not to take photos of the building, period.

Further, they cannot demand your camera or your digital media or film. Well, they can demand it, but you are under no obligation to give it to them. In fact, only an officer of the law or court can take it from you, and then only with a court order. And if they try or threaten you? They can be charged with theft or coercion, and you may even have civil recourse. Cool. (For details, see ‘The Photographer’s Right.’)

It gets better.

You can take photos any place that’s open to the public, whether or not it’s private property. A mall, for example, is open to the public. So are most office buildings (at least the lobbies). You don’t need permission; if you have permission to enter, you have permission to shoot.”

In an era when we as photographers are increasingly harrassed by security guards, property and store owners, individuals on public streets and cops, it’s important that you are well aware of the laws surrounding your hobby, passion, activity or art.

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  1. homer says:

    What if they have a sign up saying no photography allowed?

  2. homer says:

    do you have the right to take photos of copyrighted works like art in a public place?

    How can museums refuse to allow photography?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ya, ok. But — as a father of a young girl growing up in New York City I am more than a little edgy about, let’s say, a single man with a camera snapping away at, for example, the neighborhood playground. To be sure there is a middle ground here… my point tho is that shooters should be smart about when to snap away — and when not to. Considerate of the concerns of subjects (or their guardians). Yes you have the right to shoot away… but that’s not saying that it’s right to shoot away.