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UER Forum > Archived UE Tutorials, Lessons, and Useful Info > Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer (Viewed 2953 times)
The Found Artists 


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Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
< on 2/15/2007 2:54 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
THE LEGALITY OF URBAN EXPLORATION PHOTOGRAPHY
The difference between legal, unpublishable, and jail time

By Matthew B. Harrison, esq.
PhotosAndTheLaw.com

I recently gave a presentation at the Hallmark Institute of Photography on various legal topics that were of interest to the photography students there. Prior to the presentation, I had posted to some of the student message boards asking some of their legal concerns so that I could address them in my talk. One of the most asked about topics surrounded the legality of photography while urban exploring, or more simply: can I use the images that I took while breaking into that abandoned building? Seems that even though they are training to be professional photographers (who primarily shoot in studios) – some of them have become adventurous and are curious about potential liability. I figured that there may be more than just the students of Hallmark interested in such a topic – so I am devoting this column to just that.

The key thing to remember is that there is a difference between being able to use an image (for publication, exhibition, sale, etc) – and being able to lawfully take an image in the first place. Generally speaking, and there are plenty of exceptions, photographers can publish any photos they take, provided those photos do not violate the privacy of the subject. In my last article (Portolio Magazine, Spring 2006), I addressed the topic of invasion of privacy quite thoroughly. Just as a recap, individuals have a right to protection against the unauthorized use of their name or likeness for commercial purposes, unwarranted intrusion upon their solitude and personal affairs, publicity that places them in a false light, and from public disclosure of embarrassing facts about their private lives. There are a few exceptions that have been carved out for newsworthy events, and now more recently some artistic purposes, but for the sake of simplicity – I am only going to address the general rule and not the exceptions.

With this in mind, as long as the photographer is not invading someone’s right to privacy, they would most likely be able to use the images taken for more than personal purposes. This includes photos that were taken in places that were off limits – by law or by request from the owner. Ultimately, taking photos and publishing them are two separate issues. However, this does not mean that a photographer will not be potentially criminally or civilly liable for shooting someplace that they shouldn’t be.

As a general rule, if a location is open to the public, such as a mall, park, office building lobby, store, etc, you will not need express permission to enter the premises and shoot – as it is assumed that entry is permissible. However, if you are shooting somewhere and the property owner asks you to leave, you must do so or you could face potential criminal or civil liability for your trespass.

Though you may be asked to leave, it is not appropriate for them to take your film or digital medial. Sometimes security staff at industrial sites or shopping malls may ask you to hand over your film. However, unless a private party has a court order, they do not have a right to your film or digital media. In fact, if they do take your film or digital media directly or indirectly by threatening to use force or call the police – that can constitute a criminal offense such as theft or coercion and they will be the ones liable. Ad even if it doesn’t rise to the level of a criminal offence, it can still constitute a civil wrong leaving them liable as well as they entity they work for. The one exception to this would be police officers directly. They may have the authority to seize your film when making an arrest – but otherwise they too would need a court order.

I would be providing a disservice if I didn’t talk about some of the potential risks with taking photos in places where you don’t belong. If you publish photos that were taken while trespassing, you are providing evidence of your trespass that can be used against you. In fact, there have been some cases where the trespassing judgments imposed have been increased based upon the content of the photos.

There may be other potential liabilities that are not immediately apparent. Abandoned buildings are probably abandoned for a reason. In the very least, they tend to be without electricity (i.e. dark), not well kept (i.e. unsafe conditions), and maybe even explicitly dangerous (i.e. rusty nails, cracking floorboards, gas leaks, etc.). While you may be willing to take the risk of entering such a place to capture the perfect photo – be careful as you may be liable for any injuries or damage caused by anyone you bring with you. I have a client who does a lot of this type of shooting (against the advice of counsel) and one of her biggest concerns was if a model injured themselves while out on one of these expeditions. While a waiver and release of liability may be a useful tool, it may not hold up in all circumstances.


Matthew B. Harrison is an entertainment and media attorney with Harrison Strategies, LLC The Springfield based talent management group has offices in Massachusetts, New York and Washington D.C. When not practicing law, Harrison also is a glamour photographer with FNS Studios and Silver Jack Photo located at the Indian Orchard Mills complex. Visit him on the web at www.photosandthelaw.com or email him at matthew@matthewharrison.com



Model based urban exploration photography and Surreal Portraits by Matty B. and featuring the amazing and talented Cassandra E.
sphinx 


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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 1 on 2/15/2007 3:42 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
Thats some pretty useful info.

The Found Artists 


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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 2 on 2/15/2007 3:44 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
Posted by sphinx
Thats some pretty useful info.


Thanks if you have questions - don't hesitate to ask. I wrote the article.

Model based urban exploration photography and Surreal Portraits by Matty B. and featuring the amazing and talented Cassandra E.
Mark 

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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 3 on 2/15/2007 4:12 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
Posted by The Found Artists


Thanks if you have questions - don't hesitate to ask. I wrote the article.


I think you just opened up a can of worms.

"If the threat level goes up its probably because of me." "I am looking for a girl who enjoys headbutting beltbuckles"
The Found Artists 


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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 4 on 2/15/2007 4:41 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
So be it.

Model based urban exploration photography and Surreal Portraits by Matty B. and featuring the amazing and talented Cassandra E.
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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 5 on 2/15/2007 6:35 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
blood worms. oh my...

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Boffo 

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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 6 on 2/15/2007 8:16 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
What I really want to know is what these laws are like Canada. I seem to find more than enough information about the laws in the US.

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natxtron 


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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 7 on 2/15/2007 9:49 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
and here is a pdf i keep posted on my blog. kind of the same info...

http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm
[last edit 2/15/2007 9:51 AM by natxtron - edited 1 times]

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blackhawk 

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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 8 on 2/15/2007 4:45 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
Posted by natxtron
and here is a pdf i keep posted on my blog. kind of the same info...

http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm


Looks like the one I posted here before: http://www.picture.../article.php?id=91

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Explorer Zero 






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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 9 on 2/15/2007 6:43 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
Thanks for taking time to post this TFA. The issue comes up a lot around here and since you are a member of the bar it is indeed welcome basic information for many of us.

startedsmoking 


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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 10 on 2/16/2007 12:06 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
It would be awesome if you could write up semi comprehensive guide to UE photography. Short of that a UE encycopedia entry would be excellent.

It's nice to have someone around with a professional perspective on this.

"take nothing but pictures, leaving nothing but footprints...unless it would be really fun"
The Found Artists 


Location: NYC
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Cassandra E. in wheelchair - taken by Matty B.

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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 11 on 2/16/2007 1:27 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
Posted by startedsmoking
It would be awesome if you could write up semi comprehensive guide to UE photography. Short of that a UE encycopedia entry would be excellent.

It's nice to have someone around with a professional perspective on this.


I am better with questions or at least some sort of topic... rather than generating the questions or topics alone. Plus - a lot of the laws are state specific...

example

you can get arrested for being on site of a state mental hospital in MA on a sunday... but only be liable for a fine - on saturday...



Model based urban exploration photography and Surreal Portraits by Matty B. and featuring the amazing and talented Cassandra E.
sphinx 


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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 12 on 2/16/2007 2:04 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
you can get arrested for being on site of a state mental hospital in MA on a sunday... but only be liable for a fine - on saturday...


That's weird. Why?

The Found Artists 


Location: NYC
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Cassandra E. in wheelchair - taken by Matty B.

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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 13 on 2/16/2007 4:29 AM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
Posted by sphinx

That's weird. Why?


My original thought was blue laws... but as it turns out - there was an issue at one of the state hospitals and so the legislature addressed the issue (back in the 1890's) with a statute that resolved this particular issue and was legislated broadly as well so that this procedure could be applied to other facilities.

The irony... same year... the town in which my office is located... has enacted a rule that fines you 25 cents if you fell asleep with your shoes on.

Go figure.

Model based urban exploration photography and Surreal Portraits by Matty B. and featuring the amazing and talented Cassandra E.
NoSuchPerson 

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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 14 on 2/16/2007 4:22 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER Mobile
 
Good info. But, keep in mind, there is nothing to stop a Police Officer from demanding that you delete your pics, or get arrested. They could also smash your camera.. Good luck proving it was them in court.

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NoSuchPerson 

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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 15 on 2/16/2007 4:24 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER Mobile
 
Good info. But, keep in mind, there is nothing to stop a Police Officer from demanding that you delete your pics, or get arrested. They could also smash your camera.. Good luck proving it was them in court.

Unit calling radio say again?
The Found Artists 


Location: NYC
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Cassandra E. in wheelchair - taken by Matty B.

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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 16 on 2/16/2007 6:20 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
Posted by ExKa|iBuR
Good info. But, keep in mind, there is nothing to stop a Police Officer from demanding that you delete your pics, or get arrested. They could also smash your camera.. Good luck proving it was them in court.


Actually - unless you are taken into custody - a police officer has no right to touch your equipment without a warrant.

Obviously - if they do - there are procedures you can undergo to get your equipment back or get reimbursed for it.

It's happened. Not to me - but to at least three clients of mine. One was a police officer who took the camera... but the two others were private security ... and they have no right to that.



Model based urban exploration photography and Surreal Portraits by Matty B. and featuring the amazing and talented Cassandra E.
blackhawk 

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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 17 on 2/16/2007 7:39 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
Posted by The Found Artists


Actually - unless you are taken into custody - a police officer has no right to touch your equipment without a warrant.

Obviously - if they do - there are procedures you can undergo to get your equipment back or get reimbursed for it.

It's happened. Not to me - but to at least three clients of mine. One was a police officer who took the camera... but the two others were private security ... and they have no right to that.




If your arrested, they can and probably will ask to see the pictures. If you refuse they can get a search warrant and will hold the camera and memory cards as evidence until the warrant is drawn up and they are satisfied. If your equipment gets damage (that's easy even if the cops are not using excessive force), tough luck in most cases especially if your committing a crime at the time.

You will get the pics and camera back, eventually, but not cooperating may prove very expensive. It never pays to piss off a cop. Retainer fees for criminal lawyers are not cheap. Even if your not convicted of anything, the lawyer fees alone could easily run into the thousands.

Just when I thought I was out... they pulled me back in.
NoSuchPerson 

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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 18 on 2/16/2007 10:22 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
Posted by The Found Artists
Actually - unless you are taken into custody - a police officer has no right to touch your equipment without a warrant.

Obviously - if they do - there are procedures you can undergo to get your equipment back or get reimbursed for it.

It's happened. Not to me - but to at least three clients of mine. One was a police officer who took the camera... but the two others were private security ... and they have no right to that.


I'm very well aware of what kind of powers Police Officers have and don't have.

A Police Officer has *every* right to demand you erase your card. You certainly are under no legal obligation to oblige, however given the position that would put you in - is it really a good idea not to?

Yes, there are procedures you can go through if an officer damages equipment. Look at it this way. You're in court with 2 or 3 Police Officers who have caught you trespassing. You claim they ruined your camera. They say they have no idea what you're talking about. Honestly, who do you think the judge/JP is going to believe?

I know it's not fair (or legal for that matter), but from my experience, as long as they don't break any bones or leave any bruises, the Police can do just about anything they want to, and get away with it. I've heard almost exactly that from numerous officers in the past, so there must be truth to it, right?

Unit calling radio say again?
NoSuchPerson 

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Re: Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer
<Reply # 19 on 2/16/2007 10:23 PM >
Posted on Forum: UER Forum
 
Posted by The Found Artists
Actually - unless you are taken into custody - a police officer has no right to touch your equipment without a warrant.

Obviously - if they do - there are procedures you can undergo to get your equipment back or get reimbursed for it.

It's happened. Not to me - but to at least three clients of mine. One was a police officer who took the camera... but the two others were private security ... and they have no right to that.


I'm very well aware of what kind of powers Police Officers have and don't have.

A Police Officer has *every* right to demand you erase your card. You certainly are under no legal obligation to oblige, however given the position that would put you in - is it really a good idea not to?

Yes, there are procedures you can go through if an officer damages equipment. Look at it this way. You're in court with 2 or 3 Police Officers who have caught you trespassing. You claim they ruined your camera. They say they have no idea what you're talking about. Honestly, who do you think the judge/JP is going to believe?

I know it's not fair (or legal for that matter), but from my experience, as long as they don't break any bones or leave any bruises, the Police can do just about anything they want to, and get away with it. I've heard almost exactly that from numerous officers in the past, so there must be truth to it, right?

Unit calling radio say again?
UER Forum > Archived UE Tutorials, Lessons, and Useful Info > Basic Legal Information - From me... I'm an Art Lawyer (Viewed 2953 times)
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