Saturday, July 28, 2007

Proposed Vid & Photo Restrictions Generate Strong Opposition


[Photo courtesy of bsing/flickr]

Here we go again--another proposed city rule that is raising serious civil liberties concerns. This time, the target is people shooting video and taking photos. The issue has been out there for a while, but it's coming to a head now that the deadline for public comment is approaching.

Here's what the rules will do: Require even small groups who film in one location for more than 10 minutes with a tripod or half an hour without one to obtain a permit. Industrial, fashion, wedding and architectural photographers will need a permit and insurance for anything that takes more than a half hour and two people to shoot.

Here's what they won't do: The rules will NOT prohibit an individual photographer from taking pictures.

That having been said, the rules run more than 10 pages and there are many and, if's and but's buried within. The bottom line is there was a protest against the regulations yesterday evening in Union Square (the photos above and below) and the opposition has gathered high visibility supporters (as you would expect in New York City). As with many such efforts, the new rules have their origin with a case involving a documentary filmmaker that was detained by the police in Midtown. You can go here to sign an petition opposing the rules and to read more about them.

It brings to mind the misguided effort to ban subway photography a couple of years ago. The fact remains, however, that the authorities can harass any photographer or videographer if they are so inclined. The rules, if they are enacted, would simply give them a powerful legal tool to selectively enforce regulations to stop people from shooting video or photos. Here's a bit from the email we got:
An overnight, massive grassroots fight against these proposed regulations has sprung up under the name 'Picture New York.' Fighting back with YouTube videos, petitions, handwritten letters, a website, Flickr space and a rally and press conference this Friday in Union Square, this ad-hoc group of working artists, photographers and filmmakers vow to stop the regulations going into effect as scheduled in September from the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting (MOFTB).

Albert Maysles, Patti Smith, Michael Stipe and Amy Arbus are among the celebrated artists who have already signed on to demand the MOFTB extend the period of public comment, currently ending August 3, and eliminate the proposed regulations: 11 pages of single-spaced rules where none existed before.

Jem Cohen, the critically-acclaimed filmmaker whose alarmed e-mail prompted the first formal meeting of concerned filmmakers, says, "Because street photography is, by its very nature, inextricably born out of free and random movement through the city, street photographers cannot know exactly where and when they intend to work, or for how long. One cannot regulate an art form or activity by negating its very premise. The proposed rules, in refusing to recognize the spontaneity which is at the core of street photography, are untenable for that reason alone."
Don't be surprised that even if the rules are withdrawn or defeated, if they come back in revised form the same way the city's "parade" rules did. In that case, they passed the second time around.

Photographers and videographers are asked to post pics and vids to flickr and youtube and to tag them picturenewyork and camerawars. (You can check out the flickr results so far here and here.) They're also asked to email the links to jcho@film.nyc.gov and to us at info@picturenewyork.org


[Photo courtesy of Zodak/flickr]

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