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Michael Becker's picture

Photographers are no longer safe..

I have a serious problem relating to photography and my rights. I'd like your help with this if you know what to do, or have experienced something like it. So...Recently I was sitting in my car waitng for my wife at a local supermarket. Bored with waiting, I got out my Nikon DSLR . My wife, by the way is VERY camera shy, so in order to get an image without her hand in her face, I must sneak candid shots of her. Anyway, my wife was coming so as she approached I snapped several shots of her. Some other store patron saw me do this, and snapped a photo of my license plate and posted it on facebook saying I was a creep shooting little girls (my wife is 58 and hardly a little girl) They don't mention I offered freely to show my memory card to the policeman who came to investigate. But now Facebook won't do anything to help take down the damaging post. I feel threatened. That some nut may try to hurt me. I did nothing wrong but have my camera out at the wrong time. When then, is the right time? Facebook states you cannot post plates, but don't seem to care if you do. What can I do?

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18 Comments

Joe Svelnys's picture

I'd be interested to know what could be done as well.... I suspect not much.

There are creeps out there, so I could see their perspective, but, once everything is explained the issue should have stopped there. Now if the patron knows this and still spreads false information, that is grounds for slander.

It's also interesting and brings up another point in all of this... If you used a normal cellphone to take the image, would the patron even have cared? I see people taking cellphone images everywhere but you pull out a "normal" camera, people get more self aware; triggered even. Bit biased if you asked me, as cell phones are tiny and you can get more sneaky/candid shots with without anyone noticing or even really caring.

What can be done about this situation? Outside keep talking with Facebook, and possible Slander charges... I'm not sure. Sorry to hear this happened to you.

Michael Becker's picture

Thanks for the advice. It is a ridiculous situation and she doesn't see the irony of posting my personal info without a thought. She"s done worse than what I'm accused of. At least the alleged candid photos wouldn't endanger anyones safety. But this slanderous accusation could cause me real problems.

Paul Kroh's picture

First of all I must say that it is a huge compliment that your wife (58) is considered as a teen. What I don't understand is that your wife coming towards your car. That must say enough. But on the other side I can imagine that ppl think like that in 2020.I would not make a big point if you did nothing wrong.And showing a memory card doesn't say anything. It's digital, so you can delete in the meanwhile.
Just accept the fact that ppl do those things and in the meantime go and shoot some great captures.

Phillip Breske's picture

My first advice is watch a video on YouTube called "Don't Talk to the Police" by the Regent University School of Law. If someone accuses you of anything that you or may not have done, nothing good can come from talking to the police. I'm serious: watch the video. It's the most valuable 46 minutes on YouTube.

Two, when it comes to photography in public, you can take a picture of anyone and anything that is visible from anywhere you are legally allowed to be. This is your First Amendment right and it is set in stone. The ONLY exceptions to this are, for example, when someone takes care to make themselves private by ducking into a corner to make a phone call, or a VERY FEW government installations, not including police stations, courthouses, city halls, etc. These exceptions are so rare that the police would have a very hard time prosecuting anyone who violates them, especially if you follow my advice from the first paragraph.

So, if someone sees you taking a picture of an adult, or a child, or two people having sex in front of an open hotel window, there isn't a damned thing they can say that makes what you're doing illegal. Of course, they CAN contact the police, but if you value your rights as an American, you'll simply tell them that you don't want to answer any questions based on your right to remain silent (5th Amendment). At that point, they have two options: they can tell you to have a nice day and that's that, or they can ask a judge for a warrant based on some other citizen's report. A judge will likely ask if what you were doing was illegal, to which the police must reply that it was not (1st Amendment) and the judge will deny the warrant. (By the way, if someone decides to take the law into their own hands and knocks the camera out of your hands, or attacks you for taking pictures, you can take them to court for assault AND YOU WILL WIN.)

By the same token, the person who took the photos of you and your car broke no laws in doing so (although it could be argued they filed a false police report by claiming you were doing something you weren't) and so you have no recourse against them unless you can prove they lied with malicious intent towards you (good luck). If they merely misinterpreted what they think they saw, they are guilty only of being an idiot, which is not a crime.

Paul Kroh's picture

Well said. Only critique I have is a unwritten rule that children or some ethical moments you should not do for your own win. Although you have that right, sometimes you shouldn't use it.Their lives will go on after you capture them.

Phillip Breske's picture

In the eyes of the law, “unwritten rules” don’t count. Although YOU may believe that taking pictures of young children is verboten, I’m sure there are photographers who think that the innocence of youth is a fountain of artistic deliverance and nothing you can say or do will change their mind.

Personally, I don’t like kids and think they’re annoying, so I try to avoid taking their photos all the time, but I do support the right of ANYONE to make photos of anyone and anything they like. And you should, too. Unless you want your rights to be slowly eroded by alarmist idiots who think what we do is an invasion of the privacy they erroneously believe they have when out in public view.

Paul Kroh's picture

Dear Phillip, I don't agree this one. The fact that you have rights doesn't mean you have to use them by any means necessary. If someone made a ripdeal and stole your clothes you be glad that someone gives you a coat, or do you want everyone to photograph you and put it on social media because it is their right.And I hear a lot of anger in your comment so maybe it is better you avoid kids.
And "verboten" is German, I'm Dutch. But still wish "een hele fijne dag".

Phillip Breske's picture

You're Dutch, so maybe the rights of your citizens are different from the rights we Americans are afforded by our Constitution.

And if someone stole my clothes and I was naked in public and someone DID take a picture of me in such a state, I would STILL argue for their ABSOLUTE right to take those photos. You see, making the photos and posting them on the internet are two very different things. There is nothing illegal about taking photos of someone in public. However, if it can be proven that the photos were then shared specifically to cause mental or financial injury, a civil case could be fought and won for substantial compensation.

Don't argue with me on the right to take photos; I've studied this far more than you can imagine.

Paul Kroh's picture

Dear Phillip, tnx for replying. Our law is almost identical. Laws are made in general, what means that you don't have to live by it. You only argueing that it is your right that you missing my point. And I'm glad you studied it. Hope you are finished now and enjoy life more because there is more than you can imaging. For me this discussion is closed and I shake your hand.

dave l's picture

“Two, when it comes to photography in public, you can take a picture of anyone and anything that is visible from anywhere you are legally allowed to be”

I believe you are actually a bit confused on this and in this case chances are pretty good that the answer is “no” he can’t legally take pix of anything he wants there.

Here’s the difference, the law is that you can take pix of anyone or anything so long as you’re on public property. For example when I’m in Florida and fishing canals at night in a boat it’s not uncommon to see one to several couples getting it on in their houses but in plain view. Those waterways are owned by the state and considered public property so you could literally stay right there and spray n pray all you want.

However, in this case the stores parking lot is more than likely privately owned in which case they’re supposed to have a sign and phone number posted somewhere on the property and you’d have to call them to ask for permission. Being it was your wife though I can’t see any judge taking that one up.

To op,
As for Facebook... I’d first get the ladies info and screenshots of it all and download and save fb’s user agreements. Take those down to a local police station and make a report and possibly even request a restraining order. If you ask for the order they will usually set a quick hearing where you can explain how her actions show malicious intent.

File another complaint with her and fb named in it as them breaking their own user and privacy agreements.

If you have clear proof then it shouldn’t be hard to find an attorney to take it up pro bono. If you properly documented it all and got clear screenshots chances are fb would just try and do a quick settlement.

Good luck

Phillip Breske's picture

A parking lot, even when privately owned, is considered "open to the public" when there are no barriers to entry that would preclude someone simply walking across the boundary. If there are not fences or gates to go through, it is essentially public property. Now, the property owner, in this case, a store, MAY decide to disallow someone by calling the police and having a trespass warning issued, in which case the recipient of that warning would no longer be allowed on the property, but until that warning is made official, ANYONE can access the property.

As to whether you can take photos while on private property, again, there is still only retroactive means available to the owner of the property. While they can post a sign that says "no photography allowed," the only way they can stop you is to call the police and have you escorted from the premise. But they cannot physically stop you from making photos. Laying hands on you, for any reason other than to stop you from damaging property or physically harming another person, is assault. If they grab your camera for taking photos, THEY can be charged with a crime.

Taking photos while on private property may be an offense of trespassing, but the photography is definitely not a crime in itself.

Rafael Torres's picture

There is one thing you can do against the person that took the license plate photo. That person committed defamation against you since they made a false accusation of you in a public platform and that infringes upon your right to not have false statements made that will damage your reputation.

Phillip Breske's picture

Can it be PROVEN that the statements were made falsely? Or could it be argued that the person making the statements actually believed what they were saying at the time? If the former, then yes, you have a claim. If the latter, then they can say they misspoke and it won’t go any further.

Remember, it’s not what you believe or what you know to be true; it’s only what you can prove in court that matters.

dave l's picture

Unless it’s the US Senate of course

Michael Becker's picture

Yes. It is not the 1st time I've been falsely accused. You can admit to a crime you did not do, or chance it all by fighting them. Not a fun situation.

Stefan Olsson's picture

Maybe you should respect your wifes wishes and not take photos of her, especially the creepy ones you just talked about. Ask her if its ok, if she says NO, then its not ok.....Wife or not.

Michael Becker's picture

Do you ask your childs permission before snapping? I never shoot strangers without consent and she always gets to see them. It is not creepy. Why is it creepy for me, a photographer, to take candid shots of my wife. I'm not using them for anything more than to remember a moment in time. People these days should worry about the cameras they don't see. We are being recorded nearly everywhere we go now. Sometimes illegally.

Michael Becker's picture

I am amazed by the response to this post and thanks to all who replied. I haven't felt stalked for days now so I feel safer. I just wanted my personal license plate off facebook. It says cleary it is not allowed, in their own rules, but they hadn't done anything last I checked. I know my rights in my state as far as what I can shoot, it was dealing with facebook as I don't use it anymore where I was lost. I cannot believe it doesn't happen more often. Thanks again for the support, you're all great.