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

Dan K's picture

It will be interesting to see the list of exceptions.

Land of the free?

That's what you are told and you Americans believe what you are told.

Stop with the "You American" BS. You come off more ignorant than you claim us to be. We are well aware of the state of our country and quite a handful of us are taking action to do something about it.

Really? The whole world saw what you voted. I'm not calling you Grant Hobgood an ignorant, you may be not but that's not enough.

"you" is the problem. recognize that all american citizens are not one person. Everyone is entitled to their own view and generalizing the views of a group of 314 million individuals *is* ignorant.

Scott Nolan's picture

Should that mean they're going to take down traffic cams? ATM cameras? Surveillance systems, etc as well. I mean, its using the video image of someone without their consent , right? same as a photo could potentially do... This kind of blows me away... Sporting events, govt meetings, parades, fairs, celebrations, all 'illegal' to shoot without a release from each person? Sounds absurd to me. Hopefully photographers in Vermont step up and make themselves heard on this one. It's widely LEGAL to take pics of anyone, anytime (within obvious reason)... Legally doesn't even matter if someone says; 'you don't have my permission to use that photo!'... sorry... yes I do, and I will.

excellent point...

Scott Stuart's picture

I think it's time to start banning legislators...

Hahahaha, very interesting. This must be a knee-jerk reaction to something and they think that regulating and legislating will eliminate "the problem". This is just another example of the "experts" in Washington trying to pass laws on our behalf. Editorially speaking, this is a joke. Can you imagine a photojournalist getting a formal release from the president before the AP gets the file? Not going to happen.

What about all the hobbyists taking pictures at the beach and sharing them on FaceBook? Can you imagine the lawsuits this can create? They better be careful with the wording of this bill, and understand the full ramifications of their decisions. We the people, should not let this bill see the light of day, and explain to these airheads what it means to make laws we need and avoid wasting our money on silly committees, planning groups, and useless legislation when we have real national problems to worry about.

Cody Ash's picture

bump*

Washington? This is Vermont...

Personally I wouldn't be unaffected by this and neither would most of the photographers I know because why would we put up photos of random strangers instead of our actual clients.

The ones who will be affected and I bet are the direct purpose of this bill, are the paparazzi. I'm actually surprised a law like this hasn't been passed before. It has gotten out of control with people getting hit by cars and all that.

As for stadiums and events, they have waivers on their ticket stubs that relieve them from liability if you get hurt so they could possibly change the wording to include photography, like by attending this event you grant permission for the use of your likeness to event related photographers and outlets.

On a personal note, if someone took my photo without my knowledge and they had a blog or gave it to someone who had a blog of questionable nature, like people having sex with trees or something and my photo wound up on there, I would lose my shit. So more power to them. No one should have control over how photos of me are used except for me. Actually, if I saw someone had taken my photo without me knowing, like at the beach as described below, I would be totally creeped out and would lose my shit over that too.

You're missing the point.

I'll paraphrase from the comments:

"sporting events, [government] meetings, parades, fairs, celebrations, all 'illegal' to shoot without a release from each person? Sounds absurd to me."

"What about street photogs? I think a lot of tourists could get into trouble as this law applies to all people, so strangers accidentally standing in your picture could sue you."

"What about all the hobbyists taking pictures at the beach and sharing them on FaceBook? Can you imagine the lawsuits this can create?"

Aw, you clearly only read the first line or you would have seen that I actually addressed two of those comment but I'll paste one point here since you missed it:

"As for stadiums and events, they have waivers on their ticket stubs that relieve them from liability if you get hurt so they could possibly change the wording to include photography, like by attending this event you grant permission for the use of your likeness to event related photographers and outlets." The bill does not say that the permission has to be given in writing so they could be covered.

As for the beach, I also said how I felt about it. It's creepy. If I looked up and saw someone taking my photo I would totally tell them to stop and if I saw it on a website they would get a c & d. Trust.

I shoot portraits outside and asking someone to move so that no one is in their image is part of my job. It's not that hard. A friend of mine is a street photog and she asks people to move all the time. She never has photos of people who didn't give her permission. Ever. And if someone is a professional they know how to frame a photo without getting people in the background that are recognizable.

Now it's important to note that the bill DOES NOT apply to all people, it applies to people distributing the photos. It's my guess that personal use is covered as it usually is in these kinds of things. So creepy hobbyists at the beach can go back to creepily photographing strangers for their own personal use. It's the paparazzi who will be out of business.

Also, I'll repeat here, that no one has the right to use a photo taken of me without my knowledge for public use or gain. Absolutely not. No way. Now if you're cool with you face winding up on the Internet without your permission or consideration of its use, then that's your decision (meaning if your face wound up on a site about herpes, you'd be cool with that). I happen to feel the opposite.

If your "street photographer" friend has asked someone to move...it's not street photography any more.

I guess it's technically called street fashion photography. She has one of those blogs and she's been published everywhere. She photographs random people who know how to dress themselves well.

Truthfully, you don't really know a stranger's situation and there could be ramifications for photographing and distributing anyone's photo without their permission. This is an extreme example but what if you were a street photographer and you shot some random people milling around and it went viral, it was everywhere on the news on the Internet, the nation saw it. And in your photo there happened to be a shot of a woman who you caught without her knowing it and she was clear as a bell sitting on the front steps of her apartment. Now what if she had a restraining order against her husband, she moved and changed her name and yet this photo of her, sitting in front of her house gave up her location and he went there and killed her. Extreme, I know. But if you don't ask someone permission to use a photo with their face in it, how will you know if they have a valid reason for not wanting you to.

Full disclosure tho, I think this bill is geared toward the paparazzi. If they could pass it in VT then it could trickle over to LA. That's real feeling on it...

Anything or anyone visible from a publicly accessible area can be photographed. That photograph can be published without the consent of the people in the photograph. The only restriction is that your likeness cannot be used commercially without your permission. So if I took your picture, I could post it on my blog, my personal website, Facebook, make prints and sell them in a gallery. I'd only get in trouble if I sold your picture and it was used in association with a product.

People do have the right to publish your photo despite your objections. It may not be nice, but being nice isn't a legal requirement.

even though you may feel that way, that is not how it all works. if you are in the public domain, ie in public places, you have no rights to your image. if it was as easy as getting a c&d to remove your photo from a web site you think paparazzi would be out of buisness by now.

sporting events does not mean commercial sports. You want to me get a signed release from every parent when kids are participating in regional tae kwon do competitions? WTF!

You also want me to ask everyone on the beach to move because they are in my frame when I take a shot of my family vacation?

"So creepy hobbyists at the beach can go back to creepily photographing strangers for their own personal use."

"It's the paparazzi who will be out of business." - I don't think law can discriminate in this way. Is there a profession call paparazzi? How does one apply to become one?

"Also, I'll repeat here, that no one has the right to use a photo taken of me without my knowledge for public use or gain. Absolutely not."

You sir, may want to review of US law.

From Scott Hussey below:

<blockquote>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.</blockquote>

Much of this stems from Politicians having the most fragile egos and thinnest skins. I first heard talk of this when the Obama WH warned people not to "Photoshop" his image holding the shotgun back during the beginning of the gun debate. This legislation is tantamount to telling a political cartoonist he can't draw a caricature of someone without that persons permission. So, to protect their public fascade, they'll screw everybody in the process. I would hope those who take the "it wouldn't affect me" position would think carefully. This type of thing never stops once begun, and one day you will be affected.

What about street photogs? I think a lot of tourists could get into trouble as this law applies to all people, so strangers accidentally standing in your picture could sue you.

Its been like this here in Germany since forever. Here, everyone has the right to his picture, meaning I cannot just take a photo of anyone on the street. The only way around this is if you are part of a crowd, which overrides your right, and allows me to take a picture.

That's why street photography has always been a whole lot more difficult than in the us.

Not quite true. You can take pictures as you like, but you can't publish them, important difference. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recht_am_eigenen_Bild

Same as here in Hungary. You can take photos on public places with strangers, but you cannot publish them without their permissions. And how can you achieve permissions?

"Here my pen, please sign this agreement form!"

Nonsense! The street photography doesn't exist at here...

That is ridiculous. Hungary almost invented modern observational photography. If it's true, no-one bothers much, as I've taken plenty of pictures in Hungary which are offered for publication (and in Germany too).

This is actually the first time I've written to a government representative. I'm a frequent traveller to Vermont, and I have previously considered moving there. It is a fantastic state, with a rich history and fantastically independent and reasonable residents. The idea that this bill could even be proposed is preposterous, especially given how much of Vermont's economy depends on tourism.

Man, I shoot in Vermont all the time - this could become a pain in the ass. Thanks for micro-managing what I shoot in public. Hope I don't need the consent of black bears or moose...

I live in Vermont and while I'm not a street photographer I see this a being another piece of useless legislation put out by a politician without a clue as to what is important. My own view is that you should ask before taking a photo of someone on the street (not part of a crowd) just as a courtesy but this would make it illegal to shoot journalistic photography, public events, and even public figures!

A member of our camera club has already had her equipment (illegally) confiscated by the police for photographing an arrest. She got it back, with an apology, but only after a big stink was raised by the ACLU. With this law in place the police could have kept her camera or (!) the criminal could have sued the photographer! That's just not right.

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