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The 10 Legal Commandments of Photography (A MUST READ FOR ALL)

This discussion is about "The 10 Legal Commandments of Photography (A MUST READ FOR ALL)" in the "Photography" forums.
a repost from the PCC(Photographers Club of Cebu) thread The Ten Legal Commandments of Photography I. Anyone in a public place can take pictures ...

  1. #1
    C.I.A. P-Chan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004

    Default The 10 Legal Commandments of Photography (A MUST READ FOR ALL)

    a repost from the PCC(Photographers Club of Cebu) thread

    The Ten Legal Commandments of Photography

    I. Anyone in a public place can take pictures of anything they want. Public places include parks, sidewalks, malls, etc. Malls? Yeah. Even though it’s technically private property, being open to the public makes it public space.

    II. If you are on public property, you can take pictures of private property. If a building, for example, is visible from the sidewalk, it’s fair game.

    III. If you are on private property and are asked not to take pictures, you are obligated to honor that request. This includes posted signs.

    IV. Sensitive government buildings (military bases, nuclear facilities) can prohibit photography if it is deemed a threat to national security.

    V. People can be photographed if they are in public (without their consent) unless they have secluded themselves and can expect a reasonable degree of privacy. Kids swimming in a fountain? Okay. Somebody entering their PIN at the ATM? Not okay.

    VI. The following can almost always be photographed from public places, despite popular opinion:

    accident & fire scenes, criminal activities
    bridges & other infrastructure, transportation facilities (i.e. airports)
    industrial facilities, Superfund sites
    public utilities, residential & commercial buildings
    children, celebrities, law enforcement officers
    UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, Chuck Norris

    VII. Although “security” is often given as the reason somebody doesn’t want you to take photos, it’s rarely valid. Taking a photo of a publicly visible subject does not constitute terrorism, nor does it infringe on a company’s trade secrets.

    VIII. If you are challenged, you do not have to explain why you are taking pictures, nor to you have to disclose your identity (except in some cases when questioned by a law enforcement officer.)

    IX. Private parties have very limited rights to detain you against your will, and can be subject to legal action if they harass you.

    X. If someone tries to confiscate your camera and/or film, you don’t have to give it to them. If they take it by force or threaten you, they can be liable for things like theft and coercion. Even law enforcement officers need a court order.

    What To Do If You’re Confronted

    Be respectful and polite. Use good judgement and don’t escalate the situation.
    If the person becomes combative or difficult, think about calling the police.
    Threats, detention, and taking your camera are all grounds for legal or civil actions on your part. Be sure to get the person’s name, employer, and what legal grounds they claim for their actions.
    If you don’t want to involve the authorities, go above the person’s head to their supervisor or their company’s public relations department.
    Call your local TV and radio stations and see if they want to do a story about your civil liberties.
    Put the story on the web yourself if need be.

    For complete information, go to:


    Your Rights and Remedies When Stopped or Confronted
    for Photography

    About this Guide
    Confrontations that impair the constitutional
    right to make images are
    becoming more common. To fight the
    abuse of your right to free expression,
    you need to know your rights to take
    photographs and the remedies available
    if your rights are infringed.

    The General Rule
    The general rule in the United States
    is that anyone may take photographs
    of whatever they want when they are
    in a public place or places where they
    have permission to take photographs.
    Absent a specific legal prohibition
    such as a statute or ordinance, you are
    legally entitled to take photographs.
    Examples of places that are traditionally
    considered public are streets,
    sidewalks, and public parks.
    Property owners may legally prohibit
    photography on their premises
    but have no right to prohibit others
    from photographing their property
    from other locations. Whether you
    need permission from property owners
    to take photographs while on their
    premises depends on the circumstances.
    In most places, you may reasonably
    assume that taking photographs
    is allowed and that you do not
    need explicit permission. However,
    this is a judgment call and you should
    request permission when the circumstances
    suggest that the owner is likely
    to object. In any case, when a property
    owner tells you not to take photographs
    while on the premises, you are
    legally obligated to honor the request.

    Some Exceptions to the Rule
    There are some exceptions to the
    general rule. A significant one is that
    commanders of military installations
    can prohibit photographs of specific
    areas when they deem it necessary to
    protect national security. The U.S.
    Department of Energy can also prohibit
    photography of designated
    nuclear facilities although the publicly
    visible areas of nuclear facilities are
    usually not designated as such.
    Members of the public have a very
    limited scope of privacy rights when
    they are in public places. Basically,
    anyone can be photographed without
    their consent except when they have
    secluded themselves in places where
    they have a reasonable expectation of
    privacy such as dressing rooms, restrooms,
    medical facilities, and inside
    their homes.

    Permissible Subjects
    Despite misconceptions to the contrary,
    the following subjects can
    almost always be photographed lawfully
    from public places:
    accident and fire scenes
    bridges and other infrastructure
    residential and commercial buildings
    industrial facilities and public utilities
    transportation facilities (e.g., airports)
    Superfund sites
    criminal activities
    law enforcement officers

    Who Is Likely to Violate Your Rights
    Most confrontations are started by
    security guards and employees of
    organizations who fear photography.
    The most common reason given is
    security but often such persons have
    no articulated reason. Security is
    rarely a legitimate reason for restricting
    photography. Taking a photograph
    is not a terrorist act nor can a
    business legitimately assert that taking
    a photograph of a subject in public
    view infringes on its trade secrets.
    On occasion, law enforcement officers
    may object to photography but
    most understand that people have the
    right to take photographs and do not
    interfere with photographers. They do
    have the right to keep you away from
    areas where you may impede their
    activities or endanger safety. However,
    they do not have the legal right
    to prohibit you from taking photographs
    from other locations.

    They Have Limited Rights to Bother, Question, or Detain You
    Although anyone has the right to
    approach a person in a public place
    and ask questions, persistent and
    unwanted conduct done without a
    legitimate purpose is a crime in many
    states if it causes serious annoyance.
    You are under no obligation to explain
    the purpose of your photography nor
    do you have to disclose your identity
    except in states that require it upon
    request by a law enforcement officer.
    If the conduct goes beyond mere
    questioning, all states have laws that
    make coercion and harassment criminal
    offenses. The specific elements
    vary among the states but in general it
    is unlawful for anyone to instill a fear
    that they may injure you, damage or
    take your property, or falsely accuse
    you of a crime just because you are
    taking photographs.
    Private parties have very limited
    rights to detain you against your will
    and may be subject to criminal and
    civil charges should they attempt to
    do so. Although the laws in most
    states authorize citizen’s arrests, such
    authority is very narrow. In general,
    citizen’s arrests can be made only for
    felonies or crimes committed in the
    person’s presence. Failure to abide by
    these requirements usually means
    that the person is liable for a tort such
    as false imprisonment.

    They Have No Right to Confiscate Your Film
    Sometimes agents acting for entities
    such as owners of industrial plants
    and shopping malls may ask you to
    hand over your film. Absent a court
    order, private parties have no right to
    confiscate your film. Taking your film
    directly or indirectly by threatening to
    use force or call a law enforcement
    agency can constitute criminal offenses
    such as theft and coercion. It can
    likewise constitute a civil tort such as
    conversion. Law enforcement officers
    may have the authority to seize film
    when making an arrest but otherwise
    must obtain a court order.

    Your Legal Remedies If Harassed
    If someone has threatened, intimidated,
    or detained you because you were
    taking photographs, they may be
    liable for crimes such as kidnapping,
    coercion, and theft. In such cases, you
    should report them to the police.
    You may also have civil remedies
    against such persons and their
    employers. The torts for which you
    may be entitled to compensation
    include assault, conversion, false
    imprisonment, and violation of your
    constitutional rights
    Other Remedies If Harassed
    If you are disinclined to take legal
    action, there are still things you can do
    that contribute to protecting the right
    to take photographs.
    (1) Call the local newspaper and see if
    they are interested in running a story.
    Many newspapers feel that civil liberties
    are worthy of serious coverage.
    (2) Write to or call the supervisor of
    the person involved, or the legal or
    public relations department of the
    entity, and complain about the event.
    (3) Make the event publicly known on
    an Internet forum that deals with photography
    or civil rights issues.

    How to Handle Confrontations
    Most confrontations can be defused
    by being courteous and respectful. If
    the party becomes pushy, combative,
    or unreasonably hostile, consider calling
    the police. Above all, use good
    judgment and don’t allow an event to
    escalate into violence.
    In the event you are threatened with
    detention or asked to surrender your
    film, asking the following questions
    can help ensure that you will have the
    evidence to enforce your legal rights:

    1. What is the person’s name?
    2. Who is their employer?
    3. Are you free to leave? If not, how do
    they intend to stop you if you decide
    to leave? What legal basis do they
    assert for the detention?
    4. Likewise, if they demand your film,
    what legal basis do they assert for the

    This is a general education guide
    about the right to take photographs
    and is necessarily limited in scope.

    This guide is not intended to be legal
    advice nor does it create an attorney
    client relationship. Readers should
    seek the advice of a competent attorney
    when they need legal advice
    regarding a specific situation.
    Last edited by P-Chan; 11-18-2008 at 10:42 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    @P-Chan: Thank you for posting this. I thought taking photos of "women" on the beach is a no-no. But still more comfortable using a zoom lens no? This is the same commandments used by paparazzis, right?

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    walay ika 11th dira? hehehe

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    no 11. for safety,always wear your neck strap to avoid disaster...

    for example: a dance with sitti, if the camera will fall,you may loss your act of lasciviousness.hahahaha

  5. #5
    Elite Member klemzhou's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    thanks for the info! my gf always make badlong of me when I shoot pics everywhere.. hehe inside the bus, in a fastfood chain, basta everywhere.. hehe now i know nga pwede ra diay.. tenchoo!!

  6. #6

    Join Date
    May 2008
    ngano sa IT park dili man?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2008

    hadlok sila ug mga dagko na camera... bisan terrorista nya hahaha.

  8. #8
    C.I.A. P-Chan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by harvz86 View Post
    ngano sa IT park dili man?
    basin allergic sila sa camea.. lol.. di kaayo ko ka sabot.. ang p&s pwede ra man daw.. basin policy ra gud na nila.. i thnk naka explain ana si pnoize pero forget ko asa toh na thread..

  9. #9

    Join Date
    May 2008
    ako nya ni i apply, try ko shoot nya mo reason out ko ngano di pede...hehehe,,,basin kita ta og gubot ani da.

  10. #10
    C.I.A. P-Chan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    just remember dili sila pwede mo bawi sa cam or sa card/film and they cannot detain you.. istoryai lng.. if padong na gubot tawgi na police..

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