Let’s Break It Down

Andrew Kantor is a tech writer/pundit/author who wrote this article in USA Today awhile back, but it bears repeating.

The law in the United States of America is pretty simple. You are allowed to photograph anything with the following exceptions:

  • Certain military installations or operations.
  • People who have a reasonable expectation of privacy. That is, people who are some place that’s not easily visible to the general public, e.g., if you shoot through someone’s window with a telephoto lens.

So simple, yet so complicated. But wait — that’s not all:

You can shoot pictures of children; your rights don’t change because of their age or where they are, as long as they’re visible from a place that’s open to the public. (So no sneaking into schools or climbing fences.)

Video taping has some more gray areas because of copyright issues, but in general the same rules apply. If anyone can see it, you can shoot it.

And yes, you can shoot on private property if it’s open to the public. That includes malls, retails stores, Starbucks, banks, and office-building lobbies. If you’re asked to stop and refuse, you run the risk of being charged with trespassing, but your pictures are yours. No one can legally take your camera or your memory card without a court order.

You can also shoot in subways and at airports.  … Airport security is regulated by the Transportation Security Administration, and it’s quite clear: Photography is A-OK at any commercial airport in the U.S. as long as you’re in an area open to the public.

Photo by Andrew Kantor.

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