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NPPA Protests New Tactic in Dealing with Photographers Covering the Occupy Protests

February 21st, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , ,

Today, the NPPA sent another letter of protest to U.S. Parks Police Chief Teresa Chambers asking her to investigate allegations that a photographer was arrested and detained for 48 hours without being formally charged. According to press reports officers arrested Jerry Nelson, a freelance photojournalist as he covered the removal of OccupyDC protestors from McPherson Square in Washington, D.C. on February 4, 2012.

It is also alleged that although officers originally decided to charge Mr. Nelson with assault, he was never formally charged, read his rights, arraigned or allowed to make a telephone call, although he was kept “shackled and handcuffed” with “no food, no water” until his released by U.S. Marshall’s 48 hours later.

In a previous letter to the Chief, the NPPA objected to the arrest of journalists photographing and recording a Taxicab Commission hearing this past summer. After that incident, the Chief responded that their Solicitor’s Office had determined that the officers in question had acted legally.

The arrest and detention of Mr. Nelson appears to be another escalation in the ongoing tension between police and photographers covering events involving the Occupy movement.

Posted in Access, Cameras, D.C., District of Columbia, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment rights, McPherson Park, McPherson Square, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, OccupyDC, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, U.S. Parks Police | No Comments »

NPPA Comments to the Copyright Office on Copyright Small Claims

January 18th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , ,

On Tuesday the NPPA submitted official comments to the U.S. Copyright Office in response to the office’s request for comments on the idea of creating a system to adjudicate copyright infringements when the damages are low, also called Remedies for Small Copyright Claims.

The brief, written by NPPA attorneys Mickey Osterreicher and Alicia Wagner Calzada, with a significant contribution from board member Greg Smith, outlines the challenges specific to photojournalists, notes characteristics that would be important in the solution and presents ideas for framing a system.

A claim for copyright infringement can only be brought in federal court, but lawsuits in federal court cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, making it rare that a photojournalist will find the claim worth bringing. In addition, the rapid turnaround of news photography makes it virtually impossible for photojournalists to register their work prior to publication, which results in increased risk in bringing a case. Although a successful copyright plaintiff can sometimes get an award of legal fees, there is no guarantee that the defendant will be able to pay those fee. As the comment notes, “For those infringements that are discovered, most will never be prosecuted because it is economically unfeasible for the creators to commence an action in federal court.”

A small claims solution for infringements that are not worth hundreds of thousands of dollars would increase the ability of photojournalists to police their work and get compensated fairly for violations of their copyright.

NPPA is looking forward to working on this potential solution with the copyright office and with other photo organizations.

Read the official final_Copyright Small Claims Comments 01-17-12-1

 

 

 

Posted in D.C., Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, photographers, photojournalism, Uncategorized | No Comments »

NPPA Seeks Repeal of D.C. Regulations Limiting Street Photography

October 31st, 2011 by Mickey Osterreicher

On Monday, October 31, 2011 NPPA general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher, sent a letter to the Hon. Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia. The letter dealt with Police Regulations for the District of Columbia that affect photographers. In it referred to Article 31, Chapter 24, §§ 521 – 523, respectively entitled “Street Photography: Business Licenses,” “Street Photography: Individual Photographers” and “Street Photography: Requirements and Restrictions.” Of concern to the NPPA is the vague and overly broad language contained in these regulations that may be open to misinterpretation and abuse of discretion by police in their enforcement.

Specifically, §24-521.1, states “No person, firm, or corporation shall engage in the business of taking photographs of any person or persons upon the streets, sidewalks, or other public spaces of the District of Columbia, for profit or gain, without first having obtained a license to do so from the Mayor (emphasis added).  Section 24-522.1, states “No individual not licensed under §521 shall take a photograph of any person or persons, for either direct or indirect profit or gain, upon any of the streets, sidewalks, or other public spaces of the District of Columbia persons, without first having obtained a license to do so from the Mayor as provided in this section” (emphasis added). Additionally, §24-523.3 states “While engaged in taking photographs, no person licensed under §521 or §522 of this chapter shall impede traffic as defined in the District of Columbia Traffic Acts; nor shall any photographer remain longer than five (5) minutes at any one (1) location on the streets, sidewalks, or other public spaces” (emphasis added).

In the letter Osterreicher asserted that “these three vague and incrementally overly broad sections taken together could be interpreted to mean that any photographer taking a photograph of anything, be it a building, person or inanimate object for longer than five (5) minutes would be in violation of the regulations and subject to fine or arrest.” “We contend that this licensing scheme, based upon regulations that are facially inconsistent with the protections provided under the First Amendment, is unconstitutional,” he added.

Osterreicher went on to say that “these facially defective regulations will only further contribute to the erroneous belief by law enforcement that public photography may be arbitrarily limited or curtailed.” He requested that these regulations be repealed immediately and in the alternative proposed to work with Attorney General Nathan “to draft revised language that would be more narrowly tailored to serve a substantial government interest as a reasonable time, place and manner restriction on commercial photography.”

The NPPA is concerned, given the recent penchant for police to interfere with, harass and in many cases arrest photographers, that these infringing regulations would provide the police with unbridled discretion to abridge the rights of photographers covering such events as “Occupy Wall Street” or any situation involving “photography of any person(s)” or lasting longer than five (5) minutes in any one location.

It is believed that these regulations were put in place to regulate photographers who (acting as something like to commercial street vendors) take photographs of others on a public street and then attempt to sell prints or copies to the subjects of those photos. None of the regulations actually define the term “street photography,” which has a more common definition as “a type of documentary photography” practiced by such world renowned photographers/photojournalists as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt and Robert Frank to name a few.

Posted in Access, business, D.C., District of Columbia, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, law, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Regulations limiting photography, Street Photography | 6 Comments »