Update: Bill Introduced Could Result In Very Bad News For Photographers

Update: Bill Introduced Could Result In Very Bad News For Photographers

Representative Betty Nuovo, of the Vermont State House, recently introduced a bill that if passed would "make it illegal to take a photograph of a person without his or her consent, or to modify a photograph of a person without his or her consent, and to distribute it." This could have some ugly consequences for photographers in Vermont and if it passes there I would not be surprised to see other states try to follow suit. Let's examine this more...

The bill which was introduced is currently only available in short form from which I have copied and pasted below. But in short what Representative Nuovo seems to be proposing would eliminate the ability for photographers to take photos of virtually anyone and use those photos in their portfolio or distribute without their written consent. This could ultimately be quite detrimental to photographers in that area. Sadly things like this can be discussed in legislative branches of our government and passed without anyone ever noticing unless our industry gets involved.

Fstoppers-Bill-in-House-at-Vermont

Here is a link to the email address, and phone number of all the representatives including the sponsor Betty Nuovo. It might be in our best interest to educate ourselves about this bill and if you have any complaints about it contact her office directly. Before contacting a representative please read the important update below.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Here is some further clarification on the bill from one of our readers. It turns out it was a constituent bill filed on behalf of one of her constituents. Small state democracy allows bills like this to enter the process, but they rarely go anyplace. In this case, the Judiciary Committee isn't going to do anything with it. Representative Nuovo is a terrific legislator with an excellent record of supporting openness and citizen interests. This constituent bill contrasts sharply with that record, but, at least individuals have a mechanism to have their voices heard in Vermont.

Here's her response:.

"This bill, H-233, is BY REQUEST it states it right on the bill, look it up under the Vermont Legislature. What that means is that it is not my bill, it is a bill REQUESTED by a constituent who really wanted it so it is a constituents bill, every Vermont legislator knows this. I do not believe in it but legislators do put in bills that are REQUESTED. This bill is not going to be taken up by the Legislature. Rep. Betty Nuovo" - [Thanks Tom for the additional information.]

[Via Reddit]

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70 Comments

This bill is from early February. The attorney for NPPA wrote to the Vermont legislature about it and was told by the committee chair that there are no plans to even consider it. That was Feb. 28. So it is dead.

Andrew Sible's picture

thank goodness, that had me worried!

I think Scott raises a good point in regards to traffic cams, security cams, etc. It's a slippery slope. Also, what about the media? Will newspapers and television stations have to ask permission for any images they capture? I worked in broadcast television for 8 years and I know first hand that would be beyond a pain in the ass. What about if you are out with your friends on the weekend and take pictures and upload them to Facebook? If someone is caught in the background, can they sue you or make you take the photo down? There has never been an expectation to privacy in public places, and if you start regulating it now, you are doing more harm than good.

Chad West's picture

The media point is precisely why something like this is unenforceable. There are already exceptions carved out by the Supreme Court that allow us to publish photographs of people without their consent provided that it has actual news value. Things like sports events are covered by both this news exception and the fact that the sports organizations almost always have a disclaimer on the ticket or near the entrance stating that by entering you give them the right to use your likeness. However, you can't take a photo of someone in public and then use that person's likeness in an advertisement, because you run afoul of dozens of other laws.

This is not going to fly. It blatantly violates our First Amendment rights.

Hey all - Your Vermont photogs are on this. Don't sweat it.

I think it's because of Memes. people get ridiculed online if it goes viral.

Zack Williamson's picture

So unless they add a clause that stipulates security cameras don't fall under the auspices of this legislation, it would make every security camera an illegal recording device. Since you know, video is just a series of still images played back at high speed. I understand the desire for privacy, but this bill is completely insane.

I hope everyone reading this post takes the time to email or call Rep. Nuovo.
If we all do, the 30 seconds you took will be worth it.

The whole world is shrinking to one set of rules. Sad day.

there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in public spaces. get over it already... and stop wasting money on moronic proposals that are so obviously unconstitutional.

As already noted NPPA sent a note to the Vermont Legislature and they have no plans to move the bill forward. I contacted the NPPA about it to confirm

As if there are no REAL issues they need to deal with! More evidence government is bloated!

Raheel Gauba's picture

I'm just glad our hard earned tax dollars are being spent on people who are working on this junk vs. solving the real problems our country is facing.

As general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association I
wrote to VT Representative Bill Lippert, Chair of the Judiciary
Committee, in February expressing our vehement opposition to the bill. He
wrote back immediately, stating: "The House Judiciary Committee, of
which I am Chair, has no plans to take up this bill for consideration." Unless I hear otherwise I would consider this bill dead.

This is fantastic! Everyone will just videotape strangers on 4K video. Order this will mean the end of ALL retail stores surveillance video taping the customers, even police cruisers automatically recordeing stops are now illegal. Police recording are illegal.
Red light traffic camera systems? Now illegal too.

so. when, say, the president speaks in vermont you will need a signed release from him/her before you take pictures?

i'd refer you to the 1st amendment and the blurb about freedom of the press

idiocy

Ridiculous. I just wrote a them an email, explaining how and why their bill seems illogical without a deeper explanation or exceptions for certain situations. Curious to see if they write back.

If criminals don't obey laws, why make laws? Think about that for a moment.

Prevention isn't the key focus here; it's providing a legal framework for prosecution. Even then, I'm guessing this would be a case of enforcement by request—it's there to provide a legal basis for processing a complaint. No cop is going to go around making sure everyone consents.

Prime beneficiaries are politicians, police, and celebrities. People who should be worried? Paparazzi, cyberbullies. Regular, responsible photographers, not so much.

This would make almost every photo of people illegal. If I type "crowd of peope" into Google images, there are thousands of results. I don't see where they would get the resources to regulate photos of people.

I wrote her, and this was he response:

"Hi,

This bill, H-233, is BY REQUEST it states it right on the bill, look it up under the Vermont Legislature. What that means is that it is not my bill, it is a bill REQUESTED by a constituent who really wanted it so it is a constituents bill, every Vermont legislator knows this. I do not believe in it but legislators do put in bills that are REQUESTED. This bill is not going to be taken up by the Legislature.

Rep. Betty Nuovo"

Chad West's picture

I received the EXACT same response.

Chad West's picture

It might be a good idea for Trevor or an editor to update this story with the responses from Rep. Nuvo and the other Vermont legislators.

Thanks guys. Article has been updated.

I live in Vermont and sent Representative Nuovo a short email asking
what the bill is all about. It turns out it was a constituent bill filed
on behalf of one of her constituents. Small state democracy allows
bills like this to enter the process, but they rarely go anyplace. In
this case, the Judiciary Committee isn't going to do anything with it.
Representative Nuovo is a terrific legislator with an excellent record
of supporting openness and citizen interests. This constituent bill
contrasts sharply with that record, but, at least individuals have a
mechanism to have their voices heard in Vermont.

Let's cut Representative Nuovo some slack. It sounds like she has been
getting a sudden earful since awareness of this February bill went
viral. Here's her exasperated response to my email:.

"This bill, H-233, is BY REQUEST it states it right on the bill, look it
up under the Vermont Legislature. What that means is that it is not my
bill, it is a bill REQUESTED by a constituent who really wanted it so it
is a constituents bill, every Vermont legislator knows this. I do not
believe in it but legislators do put in bills that are REQUESTED. This
bill is not going to be taken up by the Legislature. Rep. Betty Nuovo"

response received this afternoon from rep. nuovo: "Hi,This bill, H-233, is BY REQUEST it states it right on the bill, look it up under the Vermont Legislature. What that means is that it is not my bill, it is a bill REQUESTED by a constituent who really wanted it so it is a constituents bill, every Vermont legislator knows this. I do not believe in it but legislators do put in bills that are REQUESTED. This bill is not going to be taken up by the Legislature. Rep. Betty Nuovo"

From the Source:

Hi,
This bill, H-233, is BY REQUEST it states it right on the bill, look it up under the Vermont Legislature. What that means is that it is not my bill, it is a bill REQUESTED by a constituent who really wanted it so it is a constituents bill, every Vermont Legislator knows this. I do not believe in it but legislators do put in bills that are REQUESTED. This bill is not going to be taken up by the Legislature. Rep. Betty Nuovo

I communicated with Rep. Nuovo this afternoon. She assured me that this bill is merely a "REQUESTED BILL" as requested by one of her constituents and that she considers this to be an absolute non-starter. She is certain no such legislation will ever make it to the floor of the state house.

I'm a VT photographer and when I saw this article I wrote an email to NPPA. Their lawyer wrote a strong letter to te VT Legislature, saying drop the bill immediately, and this is the response he got. All of us VT photographers are breathing a sigh of relief.

From: Bill Lippert
To: Mickey H. Osterreicher
Cc: Maxine Grad
Sent: Thursday, February 28, 2013 8:02 AM
Subject: Re: H-233

The House Judiciary Committee, of which I am Chair, has no plans to take up this bill for consideration.

Rep. Bill Lippert

Sent from my iPhone. BillLippert@gmavt.net.

Rep. Bill Lippert Vermont House of Representatives 2751 Baldwin Road, Hinesburg, VT 05461. 734-0593 cell. 482-3528 h/o.

Do a little fact-checking before stirring up the hornets nest next time. Also important to note that this, like a real attempt by state legislators in NC to name a state religion, is completely unconstitutional and would be meaningless and unenforceable if it were passed.

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