Posted by: David Vernon | October 27, 2008

Speaking of Photographic Legalities

Pine HollowThe good news – I survived jury duty. The threat of me sitting on a jury obviously provoked some good sense on the part of the parties involved and many a settlement were reached. Free at last, free at last, I am free for the week.

But – this leaves a perfectly good opportunity to talk about an interesting legal issue as it pertains to photography. Cries of “Photography is not a Crime!” resonate while police and security guards constantly change the rules of what you can and can’t do with a camera.

When I was a much younger lad, I was known to occasionally sneak places with a camera that I should not have gone. Then I got older (and slower and less agile) and I begin to behave myself quite a bit more. Eventually, when I landed in the commercial/corporate photography world, the rules were strict and to be observed – with serious consequences if you did not. All of that is outside the realm of the post-9/11 world however. Things that no one batted an eye at before – from a legal standpoint when it came to photography – suddenly became seriously in question. “You can’t photograph that building” or “You can’t photograph in here” are becoming de rigueur statements – sometimes fairly and sometimes unfairly. A backlash against photography is, in some circles, resulting in a backlash against the authorities who want to regulate photography.

Let me state my bias. I’m wholeheartedly in the “Photography is not a Crime” camp. And yet I don’t want my gear taken and i would prefer not to be accosted by people who either don’t have the authority to accost me or do have it and choose to accost in a over-the-top way.

Here in Central Illinois, there aren’t that many opportunities to get yelled at – but if you’re willing to push the boundaries – there are places you can go where you legally have the right to photograph and yet are challenged.

So what are your rights as a photographer? Well – this isn’t a legal blog and I’m not a lawyer HOWEVER there are resources out there. Start with the industry standard “The Photographer’s Right“. This document, prepared by an attorney, gives you a ballpark in which to play legally speaking. Then consider checking out the archive at “The Photo Attorney” (it’s in the blogroll too) for a better understanding of all things legal in photography – extending to such things as copyright and orphan works.

Know your rights – and stand up for them. Photography IS NOT A CRIME. ‘Nuf said.


  1. From time to time your readers might see something of interest on my blog, “Art Law For Everyone.” It’s not just for photographers, but most of the issues we discuss apply one way or another to artists and art-related businesses.

    The URL is

    Best regards,
    Beth Russell

  2. Beth:

    I like your site – and will add it to the blogroll – and my RSS feed. And then I’ll be a little jealous that you get to hang out in one of my favorite little cities – Madison. Well done on all fronts.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: