Know Your Photographer’s Rights

Date March 18, 2008

If you’re a fellow photographer like me, you might wonder from time to time if it’s OK to take pictures of your intended subject (be it a building, location or people).  It seems everyone is concerned about security these days, and security staff are hasty to assume that anyone taking pictures in abstract or public locations are likely out to hurt people.

As a photographer, one should know their rights, according to their local laws. Here are a few links that I’ve come across that should help shed some light on where you stand in the eyes of the law (note that these are for American laws–but Canadian laws should be quite similar):

  1. The Ten Legal Commandments of Photographers is a concise list of your rights, and the rights of others with respect to photography.  Notable  quote: Taking a photo of a publicly visible subject does not constitute terrorism, nor does it infringe on a company’s trade secrets.”
  2. The Photographer’s Rights guide.  Some photographers print this guide on a small card and keep it with them in case they’re questioned.
  3. The Legal Rights of Photographers—another guide with a bit more detail than the single page guide above.

Now of course, there are places where you can’t or shouldn’t take photos.  Typically these are places of high security or locations deemed to be sensitive by authorities.  Look for signs posted prohibiting photography.  Even if you feel it is legal to do so, would it be worth the confrontation?

It might also be good to note that some places prohibit the use of tripods as they can restrict the flow of pedestrians or become a tripping hazard in crowded areas.  Places like subways or busy streets in some cities sometimes prohibit the use of tripods.

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