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Author Topic: Photographers seen as a threat  (Read 6527 times)
ausoleil
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« on: April 12, 2005, 07:29:22 AM »
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The funny thing is that a terrorist would still take pictures and simply not be obvious about it.  How hard would it be to pull out a little compact and take a few pictures here and never draw an eyebrow?  

This is ridiculous, the element of fear that has been created.  I can understand the need to mitigate real threats, but too many innocuous activities waste too much time of the authorities and deflect them from their real task.  Why?  Because we are simply terrified of everything, or so it seems at times.

Another thing -- I understand a number of landmarks are now copyrighted, and that it's not legal to sell works of them without the owner's permission.  Anyone ever heard of that?
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avanides
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« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2005, 09:13:06 AM »
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I was in Norway this past winter and took some pictures as I toodled around Oslo. Most of the foreign embassies are pretty cozy looking, and when I stumbled upon the big black mass of the American embassy I just needed to take a picture (the US embassy, by the way, is far secluded from the rest of the embassies and has its own special location in Oslo...). I caugt the attention of the gaurds in front of the embassy, and decided it was probably best to forget the picture and keep walking. Trouble in foreign countries doesn't excite me too much...
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Robert Roaldi
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« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2005, 09:33:55 AM »
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Mike,

I too live in Ottawa and am a little annoyed reading about what happened to you. When you say the embassy guard was looking for you, do you mean he actually confronted you on a public sidewalk near the Art Gallery? Exactly what authority does he have to do that?

In the summer tourist months there must be hundreds of people a day taking pictures in exactly those areas. I am more than a little sick and tired hearing about this kind of ridiculous paranoia. Terrorists can buy all the photos they need for a buck or two from any stock agency.
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2005, 10:42:43 AM »
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Yes, it's funny what society ends up thinking is a threat.

For example, we are more and more restricted in what cityscape photographs we can take/sell. If a panorama happens to capture a building or billboard with a corporate logo on it, odds are that you will be restricted to some extent in the sale of that photo. If I lose the right to shoot a PUBLIC scene because of what a corporation put in that scene, then shouldn't they have to PAY to restrict my right?

I had a photo rejected the other day by a stock agency because a parked car was depicted in a street scene, not of central importance to the image, and I was aksed to edit out the logo so that it was illegible. But anyone could still tell what kind of car it was. Whenever legal positions clash with common sense, it always sounds like make work to me, like some lawyer somewhere found a way to earn a buck while actually doing nothing useful. (Sorry about the cynicism. In general I don't have anything against the legal profession.)

Why is giving away OUR public space with NO compensation not viewed as a threat to our freedom?

As to the incident in the post above, I can fully understand that authorities are on the alert the days before a state visit. It's what we pay them for. If they didn't check some things out, and we later found out about it, we'd complain about that and call it negligence. But surely someone with a camera in a tourist area is a threat to no one.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2005, 07:12:59 AM »
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I have been shooting extensively in various locations in Japan, and have never had a single problem with authorities, or with any other people actually.

Photography is a national sport here, and the lobby of the camera manufacturers is way too powerful for the authorities to dare restricting the natural right to take pictures of anything you'd like... :-)

Since there is zero actual connection between picture taking and terrorism in the first place, this makes perfect sense to me. Were the belief that taking pictures or monuments could help fuel such activities, authorities should simply lock people in their own house, because someone might have good enough a memory to draw a picture of a scene he/she saw with his/her own eyes.  You should at least prevent the sales of pens and papers.

By the way, all the sightseeing books are full of pictures of prime terrosist targets too... TVs are a terrible source of information for terrorists as well... lets forbid VTRs. The truth is, these measures have zero effect but to make "some" people feel safer. Not the smartest part of the bunch IMHO.

When I was in university back in the late 80s in Belgium, a vague of "bomb" attacks threatened the campus where I was studying mechanical engineering. No nuclear weapons, but explosives serious enough to injure people. Scary of course. No revendication was ever made. The reasonnable analysis that was made then: "the goal of these attacks is to force the university to control more the flow or people in classes, which is unacceptable". They took some measures, but it is nowadays still completelly free for anyone to attend any class, even if you are not a registered student. Because that is why universities are made for, to spread knowledge.

It is beyond me that people in the Us have not yet understood that the main goal of terror is not to kill US citizens, but to force them to reduce their own supposed freedom...

Regards,
Bernard
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Robert Roaldi
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« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2005, 01:17:13 PM »
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...a number of buildings and properties in the U.S. are copyrighted (or otherwise have terms of use for photographic purposes).  This may affect your ability to use images of them for commercial purposes....

This is what I was getting at in my earlier post. I am not well versed in legal concepts but something about this smells. I can understand why individuals and corporations want to protect their copy-righted material from unfair use. But why does Chrysler have to the right to take over a part of the visual landscape without compensating the rest of society?  If they put their logo on at least one building in every city in the U.S., I wonder if they could then corner the market on all American cityscape photos.
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ricwis
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2005, 08:29:51 PM »
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There is an interesting story here in the Seattle news from this weekend. A landscape and nature photographer was in downtown Seattle and went into the bus tunnel to get out of the rain. He saw the lighting and the design and thought this would make a great photo. So he gets out his camera gear and starts taking pictures. The next thing he knows, a police officer comes to him, tells him it is illegal, confiscates his cards and informs him the tunnel is considered a terrorist target and he cannot take pictures. No signs, no warnings, no nothing. He does not even fit the profile. Now the police say the officer was wrong, it is not illegal to take pictures and they are sorry for the situation.

When I have the police scanner on, I often hear officers being dispatched to "suspicious person" taking pictures of bridges, the space needle, the waterfront, and every other landmark in the area worth a photo. Not only is it stupid, but it is a huge waste of police time. In every case I have heard, the police close the report and there is no problem. Photographers are not the only ones being reported. City workers are reported as doing "suspicious activity" even in their orange vests. One cop said as he was being dispatched, "any bets I find a city truck in the parking lot".

I have family in both the police and fire departments and they say the number of calls they get like this is amazing. It is a small number of people that don't think, see everything as a threat or safety issue, and report it "just to be sure".

Has this happened to you?
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Rich Wisler
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2005, 11:59:25 PM »
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I believe NYC recently passed legislation making it illegal to photograph in or around the subway.

Are we safe yet?
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2005, 02:51:32 PM »
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Another thing -- I understand a number of landmarks are now copyrighted, and that it's not legal to sell works of them without the owner's permission. Anyone ever heard of that?
Unfortunately, this is true. See this thread:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/cgi-bin....1;t=224
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russell a
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« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2005, 04:51:53 PM »
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The increased copyrighting of "stuff" that is placed in public view is a separate and more insidious issue.  As one looks through the viewfinder at the world more and more space is occupied by logos, advertisments, "branding", etc.  Someday there may be nothing else to photograph.  I don't know that there is anything to do about this.  Anyone who might have cared has already sold his soul to someone whose lawyers are preparing copyright papers for the soul itself.  

Soon, the only street photography allowed will be the ubiquitious surveillance camera.  I think I'll start negotiating with some mini-marts for the rights to the "take" from their cameras.  One downside is I won't get as much (potentially harmful) sunlight and (questionably) fresh air that way.
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DiaAzul
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« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2005, 01:05:01 PM »
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I was in Norway this past winter and took some pictures as I toodled around Oslo. Most of the foreign embassies are pretty cozy looking, and when I stumbled upon the big black mass of the American embassy I just needed to take a picture (the US embassy, by the way, is far secluded from the rest of the embassies and has its own special location in Oslo...). I caugt the attention of the gaurds in front of the embassy, and decided it was probably best to forget the picture and keep walking. Trouble in foreign countries doesn't excite me too much...
This is one specific area that is best avoided - Embassies, Government Buildings, Power and Water facilities, Airports, Military Installations, Police Stations, etc...photographing any of these is likely to get you either noticed or in a lot of trouble depending on the specific country. Last year a group of british plane spotters (*) were arrested near a greek (or turkish?) airport for photographing planes taking off and landing. It took a lot of diplomatic wrangling to get them released.


* - Plane (and train) spotting seems a peculiar type of sport. For those that don't know this particular activity it involves hanging around airports/ railway stations and collecting the  types of planes/trains and quite often serial numbers.  When I was younger it was possible to purchase a book in the newsagents which listed all the serial numbers for all the trains used on the british railway network, people would purchase the book and then cross of trains as they saw them.
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David Plummer    http://photo.tanzo.org/
rih
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« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2005, 03:45:50 AM »
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I had a similar experience in my hometown of Boston.  I was in South Station which is a busy commuter train/bus terminal.  It is a beautiful old building that has been nicely restored.  i looked up and saw great domes and granite with beautiful suffused light and got out my camera.  In very short order I was accosted by a secruity guardand told I could not take pictures in the station.  As others have said nothing was posted.  Re the issue of surreptitious pictures check out cellphone cameras.  They work and they would be almost impossible to detect as everyone is talking on cell phones everywhere.  I was impressed with how easy they are to use and how hard they would be to detect.  This seems to be part of the price we pay for the aftermath of 9/11.  It is sad to see our country going in this direction.
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mikealex
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« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2005, 08:24:04 AM »
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I was in Norway this past winter and took some pictures as I toodled around Oslo. Most of the foreign embassies are pretty cozy looking, and when I stumbled upon the big black mass of the American embassy I just needed to take a picture (the US embassy, by the way, is far secluded from the rest of the embassies and has its own special location in Oslo...). I caugt the attention of the gaurds in front of the embassy, and decided it was probably best to forget the picture and keep walking. Trouble in foreign countries doesn't excite me too much...
Here in Ottawa, the US Embassy is right in the middle of the largest tourist area in the city. One evening (around 6pm), last fall, I was walking from the By-ward market (bar/restaurant area), to the Art Gallery. This path takes me right past the US Embassy, and I made the mistake of carrying my camera with me (10D, big white lens, tripod, hard to miss).

I didn't stop to take a picture of the embassy, and never pointed my camera in that direction. Didn't matter. 20 minutes later, I'm confronted by an armed embassy guard who'd been searching for me, questioning me about what I was doing near the embassy with a camera.

Next, two RCMP officers (federal police) show up, responding to a call from the embassy. All in all, it took about 30 minutes of questioning by the embassy guard and one of the RCMP, while the other officer took my ID, and ran a background check.

The worst part was trying to answer their stupid questions. "Why do you have such a big camera?" Um, I'm a photographer, not a snap-shooter. "Why do you have a tripod?" Ah, it's dark, and I can't handhold for 30 second exposures.

What a pain. If they don't want people near their embassy with cameras, why did they put it in a tourist area?!?!
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...Mike
mikealex
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« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2005, 02:00:20 PM »
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I too live in Ottawa and am a little annoyed reading about what happened to you. When you say the embassy guard was looking for you, do you mean he actually confronted you on a public sidewalk near the Art Gallery? Exactly what authority does he have to do that?
By the time he found me, I was in the park behind the Art Gallery, setting up to take this shot of the Alexandra Bridge:

http://www.pbase.com/mikealex/image/41871839

I don't know how much authority he had to stop me, but I wasn't going to argue with him, and the RCMP were only a minute or two behind him.

I know the law says I'm not obliged to provide ID or answer questions, but since I wasn't doing anything wrong, what's the point of putting up a fuss. It'll only make it take longer, and make them get nastier (they were actually quite polite through all of it).

Something I should've mentioned in my original post is that this was 2 days before Bush came to town, so I'm hoping it was just an unusually high level of paranoia because of that. But, I do know another photographer who had an encounter with the US Embassy, and that wasn't near a presidential visit.
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...Mike
Stef_T
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« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2005, 05:52:30 PM »
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I find it strange that photographers and teenagers seem to have a lot in common when it comes to treatment by the police. While I have luckily stayed entirely clear of any police confrontation, I have heard from friends that they are often stopped randomly, even in broad daylight by cops asking them questions such as why are you here?, where are you going?, what's in the car?, have you been drinking/smoking? etc. In my opinion police have far overstretched what they are entitled to do, and I for one, blame society's rediculous state of paranoia. Personally, I find that anyone in a rural town that feels they need to buy a gun, gasmasks, kevlar vests and to build a bomb shelter is an idiot (and yes I do know people who have done this).

I do find it interesting that there has been trouble equally in Canada and the US. I had believed that Canada was much more tolerant and less paranoid when it came to this kind of stuff. I guess it isn't safe anywhere anymore.
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Quentin
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« Reply #15 on: May 03, 2005, 10:43:00 AM »
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And its not just North America

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england...don/4503711.stm

Quentin
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Quentin Bargate, ARPS, Author, photographer entrepreneur and senior partner of Bargate Murray, Law Firm of the Year 2013
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« Reply #16 on: May 03, 2005, 02:39:06 PM »
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The funny thing is that a terrorist would still take pictures and simply not be obvious about it. How hard would it be to pull out a little compact and take a few pictures here and never draw an eyebrow?

This is ridiculous, the element of fear that has been created. I can understand the need to mitigate real threats, but too many innocuous activities waste too much time of the authorities and deflect them from their real task. Why? Because we are simply terrified of everything, or so it seems at times.
I couldn't agree more!

I'm surprised by all of this! I never knew this was going on!

I guess I better watch my back!
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2005, 04:46:44 PM »
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Paranoia, opportunism, or not, the reality is that we are going to have to put up with this stuff until (and it could be a long way off) the authorities feel there is less reason to be so hawkish about every imagineable situation that could possibly be conceived as the proverbial tip of a terrorist iceberg. Different countries at different times will behave differently in these respects. The only protection one has is to know one's own rights, know their rights, know when and how to make a fuss and know when it is best not to make a fuss.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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gwarrellow
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« Reply #18 on: May 20, 2005, 10:55:05 AM »
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And guess what -- in the US, if you can see the building from a public place, like a sidewalk, you can take a picture of it and if you call it art, you can sell the picture; any supposed copyright of a building is worthless.
John,

I remember a thread a while back that suggested that certain buildings e.g. Chrysler were copyrighted and that you couldn't sell photos taken of these, even from the sidewalk:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/cgi-bin....24;st=0

This is a post from the thread by PaulS on 28th Feb 2005:
"You should be aware that a number of buildings and properties in the U.S. are copyrighted (or otherwise have terms of use for photographic purposes).  This may affect your ability to use images of them for commercial purposes.  A partial list can be found here, and includes such such landmarks as the Chrysler Building in New York, the Hollywood Sign, any of the Disney parks, the Hollywood Walk of Stars and Chinese Theater in Hollywood, the Mississippi, Delta Queen and Natchez paddle steamers, and the Lone Cypress tree at Pebble Beach, CA."

This is the link to the list he mentions:
http://www.stockindustry.org/resources/specialreleases.html

Graham
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2005, 02:36:20 PM »
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But why does Chrysler have to the right to take over a part of the visual landscape without compensating the rest of society? If they put their logo on at least one building in every city in the U.S., I wonder if they could then corner the market on all American cityscape photos.
To set the record straight, while Chrysler was the original owner of the building, the current owner is Jerry Speyer. It is Tishman Speyer which has the restrictions NOT Chrysler.

I presume that Tishman Speyer is trying to control any commercial useage of the unique architecture of the building. Chrysler has nothing to do with this.

See:

http://www.greatgridlock.net/NYC/nyc2a.html#28

And

http://www.tishmanspeyer.com/fundmanagement/cs_content.html
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