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July 30, 2007

Bloomberg's plan to restrict photography in NYC

The Bloomberg administration is quietly pushing new regulations that would ban certain kinds of photography in New York City without a permit and $1 million in liability insurance:

The new rules, which were proposed by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a public place for more than 30 minutes to get a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance. The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment. The permits would be free.

City officials said they would decide after next Friday whether to adopt the rules as they are, amend them or draft new rules and reopen the public review process. [NYT]

Ironically, Bloomberg is just fine with unlicensed cameras when they are trained on citizens in the name of security and fighting petty crime.

Photography is an established form of free speech. We shouldn't have to get permission permission or taking and million-dollar insurance policy in order to exercise our First Amendment rights.

It seems clear that this measure is designed discourage small-time filmmakers from shooting in the city. Cynics would speculate that the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater, and Television wants to create a monopoly for the big commercial filmmakers who generate revenue for the city.

The rules apply to still photographers as well. There are no exceptions for amateurs. It's not clear whether this ban will apply to journalists as well--nothing I've read suggests otherwise. Are they really saying that every camera crew in the city has to get a permit before it shows up to cover a story?

The New York Civil Liberties Association has pledged to sue the city if these unconstitutional restrictions become law.

Picture New York is a newly-formed advocacy group fighting the proposed restrictions. You can sign their e-petition here.

HT: Elana at DMIblog.

Update: Here are the proposed regulations in full. Based on my incomplete reading, there is a media exemption, but it applies only to those with pre-approved NYPD press passes.

Download moftb_permit_regs.pdf


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Can't read the grey-on-grey. Autumn Harvest, I regret the misattribution of your comment.

The conclusion that Bloomberg reached when he decided to do this is the one that's illogical. Opposing it is simply a fair and reasonable stand for everyday freedom.

Expect to see more shoulder-held, tracking shots.

What will be next? If you want to sit in a park for more that 10 minutes will you need a permit? A friend asked what if Monet need insurance and a permit? Why would I want to take visiting friends to Central Park or Midtown or anywhere when we would run the risk of the photo cops comming for us just because there are to many of us who may want a memory of the day! KEEP THE PUBLIC SPACE FREE FOR THE PUBLIC TO DO PUBLIC THINGS!

I somehow doubt they're going to be enforcing this rule against, say, birdwatchers, who often travel in packs and use cameras on tripods, especially when there's a rare bird sighted in an area.

Well, apparently NYCLU are going to make darn sure it doesn't - there's apparently a regular red-tail-hawk-watcher in Central Park who'd fall foul of these byelaws as written. Maybe if this edict was passed it wouldn't be policed to the letter, but that's no reason to let it pass.

David Grenier, I'm sure there are existing public nuisance byelaws that could be used for any fotogs/filmmakers who are habitually getting in people's way. Why therefore have a blanket of red tape cast over cameras under particular circumststances? Regulation may well be needed, but the byelaw as writ is ridiculous.

And he wants to be President?

Difficult to fathom, particularly from a man with ambitions to higher office.
What's the constituency on this one?

Anthony Damiani: What's the constituency on this one?

Hollywood. They don't like YouTube.

At least for NYU, the film kids have a blanket insurance permit that covers them from (I think) - Canal Street to 14th Street and 4th Ave to 6th Ave - anywhere outside those boundaries and you need a permit, altho I've worked plenty of NYU films within and outside the boundary where we've never been asked for a permit, even with dolly track set up. Once, we were doing a tracking shot with a girl laying half on the sidewalk, half on the curb with a pool of blood and someone called 911. The police and EMT weren't mad at us, but mad at the person who called 911, since there was a whole camera and dolly setup across the street.

As for NYU photo students, we don't get permits for anything... we just go out and shoot, even when we bring lights on location.

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