Arbitrary Restrictions on Photographers

Friday, September 09, 2011


At times during the last decade, authorities have arbitrarily stopped photographers from taking pictures in the name of national security. For example, University of Maryland student Reza Farhoodi was removed from his seat at a Washington Redskins game because he was using a 'professional camera' – even though there is no prohibition against using 'professional' cameras at football games. Brooke spoke with attorney Morgan Manning about being forbidden to photograph.

Comments [8]

Bill C

The comments by "Charles" above that he would have convicted Emily Good as charged just proves that there are people out there who would love to trample on American's civil rights and create a police state where whatever LEO says is right and we citizens have no say in the matter. Wrong. When is standing in your yard "interfering with a peace officer" or "obstructing justice". Only when it makes a peace officer uncomfortable. Almost all of these incidences have been resolved by the dropping of charges. Why? Because there was no basis for the arrests or charges. But law enforcement continues to get away with these tactics because the judicial system won't stand up to these tactics and allow them to continue.
The US Appeals Court has already ruled that it is the right of a citizen to photograph or videotape a LEO doing their job in public. So Emily Good was well within her right to photograph officers doing their job in public, especially standing in her own yard.

I have worked with LEO a lot and have not had a bad experience like those that have been cited, I would like to think that these experiences are not the norm, but a aberrance in law enforcement behavior. But not having a reasonable recourse in our judicial system is concerning..

Oct. 04 2011 11:29 AM

I found this story particularly chilling. Taking photos and video is one of the most fundamental ways people communicate what's happening in society, and can prevent abuses of government. And when police start arresting and charging people for taking pictures is when I start getting very worried.

Sep. 17 2011 06:02 PM
Mike from DC

Appearantly the NFL copyright clause is not clear enough.

"Any other use of this telecast or any


descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent is prohibited"

Sure sounds like a government conspiracy against photographers....

Sep. 13 2011 10:46 PM
A Listener from Connecticut

I was working as a News photographer in a large New England city, when returning from an assignment, a motocyclist slammed into a vehicle right in front of me. I got out and began to photograph the accident. A young ambulance attendant came running out of the ambulance, waving his arms saying that I was "violating the patient's HIPAA rights".

A local police officer told the errant attendant that he had no idea what he was talking about and that the attendant should tend to the patient rather than pester me.

Sep. 11 2011 05:06 PM
Farrish Carter from New York City

I just got back from shooting the 9/11 tenth for my blog and there was more than one occasion where someone in uniform watched me take pictures. Perhaps it was the fact that I had heard Brooke's story, perhaps it was the fact it was 9/11, but it almost felt confrontational in nature. I have been attacked before by uniformed civil servants (laughingly called " a liberal" by cops for photographing an arrest) and expect to be again. Telling the truth with images can be intimidating, even scary. But I'm going to keep fighting that oh-so-good fight.

Sep. 11 2011 03:38 PM
Rob from Detroit, MI

I have a story about how photographs landed the Department of Homeland Security at my home.

About a year ago I was working on a series for my station in Detroit - WDET 101.9FM. We were working on stories related to illegal truck routes in Southwest Detroit.

I went to conduct an interview with a lady who was telling me about how the trucks were causing damage to her home and health.

At the end of her street is an oil refinery. I had a intern with me who took a few photos of signs in the area related to trucking. We didn't take any pictures of the refinery, we never went on the refinery's property.

About a week later, I come home from work to find a card in my front door from an agent of the Department of Homeland Security. I guess they had tracked me to my home through my car's license plate. Who gave that to them my license plate number and who was watching me? I'm not sure.

I called the agent and he asked me about the photos and why I was taking them. I told him who I was, a reporter with the public radio station in Detroit, and he said he felt a little bad about bothering me because he had done a google search on me and found out who I was. He told me he had to investigate.

Anyhow, he "cleared" me after I told him what were were doing and why we had taken the photos.

But, I found it interesting that I was contacted because I was near the refinery. I didn't know the government was keeping an eye on it, but due to their investigation of my photos, now I know.

Anyhow, just wanted to share a story related to the interview.

Sep. 10 2011 03:39 PM

This story is technically correct; the Redskins, after the fact, stated that they have no policy on "professional" cameras.

But anyone who has gone to a lot of football and baseball games and golf tournaments will know: It is commonplace, for stadiums, arenas and other crowded sporting events and concerts, to ban "professional" cameras. Often times, those bans take the form of bans on certain professional-grade camera equipent -- lenses longer than 4", "SLR-type" cameras, tripods, etc. Bans on video cameras are common.

These are not cases of anti-terrorism overreach. They are cases of ordinary security (no big, hard objects in case of a fight in the stands) and product-protection. (The NFL, Major League Baseball and other porfessional sports carefully license and protect their on-field products.) Long lenses may allow fans in the stands to act as commercial photographers.

If you Google serach terms like professional+camera+lens+stadium, you will come up with dozens of stadium policy webpages in which there are variants of no-professional-camera policies; limits on lens length, descriptions of types of cameras, et cetera.

So when Brooke Gladstone breathlessly says, "" Well, that's just not true.

Even young, liberal law students who listen to NPR, read the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times, and vote Democratic are taught; when a police officer tells you to do something, you do it, and ask questions later.

It isn't a matter of anti-terrorism policy; it is a matter of public order in a police situation. Individual police officers bear the responsibility for public order surrounding their official duties. If crowds gather, if unruly situations develop, the police may bear responsibility. Police need to be able to issue small-scale temporally-limited orders -- stand back, get away from the street, go into your houses, stay where you are, etc. Anything else really is obstructing a police officer. And in that case, it is not merely an issue of a police officer's "word" against a civillian's word. It is a principle; that the policeman needed to do a job, his job required issuing orders, and the civillian was getting in the way. Interfering with a peace officer in the course of his duty.

I'd have convicted Emily Good as charged.

Sep. 10 2011 11:34 AM
Stephen L

The move toward a police state really scares me.

Sep. 09 2011 05:04 PM

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