Sunday, July 29, 2007

OK, So, about this Permit-Thing in NYC

Well, it seems, everyone's up in arms about this proposed permitting process on photography in NYC. First things first - it's not going to become law. Second, If it DOES become law, someone - probably the ACLU will sue on a myriad of grounds and the law will be invalidated.

That being said, remember, what happens in New York everyone else watches. If this happens, especially with all the vagueness of the language, it will be open season on tourists, students - heck, anyone with a camera. So, click the link above, or if you're not convinced of his bad this is, as written, Read the NY Times article to learn more. The law is so absolutely poorly written that practically everyone that is in possession of a camera when with others is subect to fines.

Now, let's look at some of the good ideas:

any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and insurance.

Operative words..."use a camera...more than a half hour". IF you are using a camera in one location for more than 30 minutes, you really should have a permit, and it'd be irresponsible for you to not have insurance. And, about the criticism of the $1 million liability, that's standard for any professional photographer's business insurance that NPPA/ASMP/APA/PPA offer.

The Permits are free, and only require that you proove you have insurance, and can be obtained online. Of course, permits will cost money in the future.

The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment.

Operative words "plan to use a tripod". Try this: "Officer, these light stands, they're not a tripod, and I have no plans to use a tripod." Then, out loud, you ponder, within earshot of the observant officer, "gosh, I guess I need a tripod, but I didn't plan on it, so there's no 10 minute limit...", and then shooting commences with said tripod.

Just as these rules were set in place as the result of a documentary filmmaker (and make no mistake about it, documentaries are a form of commercial photography), where the videographer was using a hand-held video camera (and make no mistake about the 'hand-held' part, this could have been consumer model, or a professional grade betacam-SP), so too will whatever results be misinterpreted.

How about this though - you're a paparazzi, and you want to stake out a celebrities' front door. Go online, get your free permit, and then when they come out the door, you've got a permit to be there, and now the celebrity is now walking through your set.

Or, you get a permit for the sidwalk outside of the evening's see-and-be seen club, and you can stand right next to the doorman and do whatever video/stills you want, and the club owners can't kick you off the sidewalk because you have a permit.

Or, what about this - if you're covering arrivals at an event, on city property, even though the event organizers have a permit for the carpet and stanchions, you may well now need a permit to be there. Now, that would weed out a ton of the fans-with-cameras, and others who are not legitimate, leaving more room for genuine newsgathering photographers.

As written/proposed, the language is horrible. However, there could be an upside to having the city's permission to be somewhere! Visit the NY Civil Liberties Union to learn more, including how you can file formal comments with the City of New York, but hurry - comments close August 3rd!

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Bruce DeBoer said...

Any thoughts on Silver Spring, MD?

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