ACLU Releases List of Rights of Photographers

ACLU Releases List of Rights of Photographers

Knowing your rights as a photographer is important, particularly if you spend a lot of time working outside or in public places. The American Civil Liberties Union has released a list of rights that any photographer should be aware of.

I've had my share of run-ins while working in public; it's just part of the game. It helps, however, to keep a cool head, speak respectfully and logically, and know your rights. That being said, it's also important to know when a situation has escalated beyond the point being worth fighting for your shot. Nonetheless, the first step is knowing just what exactly you are allowed to do as a photographer. Someone of the most helpful points include:

  1. When in public spaces where you are lawfully present, you have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. That includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police. Such photography is a form of public oversight over the government and is important in a free society.
  2. Police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your digital photographs or video without a warrant.
  3. Note that the right to photograph does not give you a right to break any other laws. For example, if you are trespassing to take photographs, you may still be charged with trespass.

Keep in mind that this list applies specifically to the United States and does not constitute legal advice. To read the full list, check out the ACLU's post here.

Lead image by Flickr user Dirk Förster, used under Creative Commons.

[via ACLU]

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Thanks for sharing.

With any police encounter you have to evaluate in light of the saying "you can beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride downtown." Unfortunately.

Thanks for sharing that, Pete; I wasn't aware of that! That's very good to know, especially considering there's a large arsenal near me.

"As with the human body, anything that you do not exercise eventually disappears." I totally agree. Exercising that right is what provides the public oversight of the government that any free society so desperately needs.

Watch yourself near any border patrol station. You can assert your 'rights' only to find you in a Federal Holding Facility 800 miles away, your vehicle and possessions taken and you have to PAY to get them back - only to find they were broken somehow after you finally track down where they are.
You are let out of the holding facility with your ID and money conveniently 'lost' or destroyed and a few hundred miles from where you vehicle may be. The photo gear is somewhere else and you need to go to court to get it released - takes a lot of dollars and a lot of time.
Border Patrol types are not photographer friendly in many of their locations.

Yep! The poster stating the photog was in the wrong on the recent crazy local article needs to read this.

Here's a great page for Australian Photographers, specifically in the state of NSW about our rights.
NSW Photo Rights - Australian street photography legal issues by Andrew Nemeth BSc (Hons) LLB MTeach

Will the ACLU be sending police officers that list? You know the ones that have the riot gear, guns, and cuffs roided and ready to kick your ass or worse when you don't comply.