Right to Photograph

For some reason, security guards and cops have this weird aversion to photographers. Despite repeated statements from top brass in just about every jurisdiction, they insist that it’s illegal to take pictures of certain buildings or trees or power plants or whatever.

This must stem from action movies. In every movie with a terrorist, the guy goes and takes pictures of the target. This never happens in real life, of course, because we have things like Google Maps instead – but in movies, you need _something_ for the guy to do so you can pad the whole thing out to 100 minutes. So, pictures.

10 Responses to “Right to Photograph”

  1. Pitt says:

    Meanwhile, its perfectly legitimate to photograph or videotape law-abiding citizens going about their daily routine. Naw, no privacy violation there. Nope.

    Face it: without some sort of serious intervention, there will be NO right to privacy in about 20 years. Between cameras, Google world, GPS, and people willfully surrenduring every pertinent detail about themselves on facebook, it’ll be just about impossible to retain any shred of a private life. About the only shred of hopefullness is the fact that the sheer volume of data being collected will be so huge as to overwhelm any attempts to manage all of it. It will basicaly become one huge revolving Russian Roulette lottery of identity theft.

    Orwell, your ship has arrived. And the future is somehow even more grim than you foretold.

  2. Dan says:

    Another recent article, this one pertaining to the fact that in 3 states (possibly more by now) it is actually illegal to record an on-duty police officer. That means that the Rodney King video, if made today, would be punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
    Even if you just have a camera in your motorcycle helmet and you get pulled over by a cop for speeding (and let’s say he breaks several major rules and pulls a gun on you…you know, cuz that’s what Jack Bauer would do), you can face jail time (source). To reiterate, the guy got pulled over for speeding, but then was arrested for recording the officer that pulled a gun on him.

  3. Kevin says:

    I believe that their needs to be a balance. I’m not a proponent of guns but understand the need of the citizenry to have them, because if the government is the only one with guns dot dot dot.

    While I don’t think that people should be able to record you without you knowing it, keeping tabs on the authorities seems like a necessity sometimes. Believe me, if there is an encounter between me and some Jack Bauer cop, that cell phone is coming out.

  4. BrianN says:

    I really want to go around photographing the cops that just stand around doing nothing at construction sites, all on the taxpayer’s dime.

    Hope it’s not illegal in Mass yet. (I wouldn’t be surprised, for all it’s “liberal’ reputation, they seem to be the first to adopt this kind of law).

  5. matt says:

    My personal pet peeve is the cops that act as the security detail at events. For example, the head coach of LSU has a contingent of Louisiana State Troopers that act as his bodyguards at out-of-town football games. There’s money well spent.

  6. Chris says:

    With a quick reading of this and the pertinent section of law included here, it seems that the largest legal problem is with the voice recording that comes with the video. In many states it is illegal to record a conversation without all participants consent. So taking still photos or video without sound (need to make a ‘Cop Buster’ App for that) may get you harassed and detained but not arrested and prosecuted.

    @Pitt: Some make the argument that it was Huxley who was more prescient than Orwell.

  7. Pitt says:


    I had lapsed my mind on Huxley, but I definitely can see the arguement for Huxlian dystopia being our future. Soma FTW!

  8. matt says:


    You would say that, you Beta, with your dreadful khakis.

  9. Pitt says:

    Funny, I always thought of myself, in the context of that book, as a would-be Beta. And coincidentally, I happen to be sporting my usual khaki pants as I type this.

  10. BrianN says:


    Cute, I love the beenie baby reference!

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