Can I Shoot Here? Photography Rules at Public Events

https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnrabbit/8660242398
“The Lights of Simian Mobile Disco” by John Rabbit from Flickr
(Creative Commons License)

Public events present fantastic opportunities for photographers to take captivating photos, but before you pull out your camera, you need to understand some of the legal do’s and don’ts of shooting in public.  

What is “Public?”

What is public versus private is a challenging question for some people to comprehend. There is a difference between being “in public” and being on “public property.” Many places where the public is invited to be, such as shopping malls, convention centers, fairgrounds, and stadiums are in public because you’re in a place where many members of the general public can see you, but you’re still on private property, and can be asked to leave if you’re breaking the rules.  

Even when events are on public property, like street fairs and events at public parks, these areas are like private property for the purpose of the event. The organizers likely obtained an event permit from the city, part of which gave them permission to enforce stricter rules regarding photography than what you would have to follow if you were merely walking down a public street.

Their Event. Their Rules.

When you want to shoot at an event, try to find the photography rules. When you enter the event, look for notices. Many times, the organizers post a notice that says by entering the premises, you agree that the event organizers can take your picture and use the images for any purpose. These notices do not apply to you unless you are a photographer hired for this purpose.

Here’s where you can look for information about whether you can legally take photos at an event.

  • If the event is on private property, look for a list of rules on the wall. Many shopping malls and stores have rules that prohibit shooting photos or video on the premises.
  • If you are attending a sporting event or concert, check the back of your ticket. If there is fine print, that is likely a contract between you and the event or venue, which may include terms about taking photos.
  • Check the website for the event or venue to see if they are specific rules regarding photography at the event. Many times, this is in the frequently asked questions (FAQ) section. If the event is out in the open, like at a park or fairground, I would not expect there to be rules that prohibit photography, but I have seen “No Photography” signs on vendor booths at art festivals where artists were selling original works.

Rules of Thumb for Shooting Photography in Public

Here are some general rules when taking photos at public events.

1. Don’t be creepy. Don’t stare at people, follow them around, or act like a stalker. I’ve heard about this type of behavior at cosplay events, including a few years ago at Phoenix Comicon where someone shot video of women without their consent, and posted a compilation where the purpose was to objectify them. (The video has since been removed.) Now, it’s more common to see rules at these events that include a zero tolerance policy for this type of behavior.

2. Ask permission if you can take someone’s photo. This is particularly true if you’re taking photos of someone else’s child.

3. Be ready for questions from security, ushers, and/or event attendees. If you are using a high-end camera when most people are using their smart phones, you may raise suspicions. This is especially true if you or the person you’re shooting are doing anything abnormal.

As a former gymnast, I like to do handstands. When my friends and I went to an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game, I decided to do in the stands. We did it right before we left: I kicked a handstand, my friend took the picture, and we immediately walked up the stairs to leave. As expected, an usher stopped us as we reached the top. I was ready for him to say we needed to leave, but thankfully he was curious to know what we were doing.

Handstand at the Baseball Game, June 2010

4. Remember, if you don’t have a model release, you likely can’t use the images that contain identifiable persons for commercial purposes, including marketing yourself, without the risk of being accused of violating the person’s right of publicity. (Check your state’s law to see what the rules about publicity rights are before you take photos of others, especially strangers.)

5. When you are taking photos on public property – not at a private event, know the applicable laws. You may encounter people who make false statements about the law, and you have to correct them.

For example, Improv AZ has organized the No Pants Light Rail in Phoenix every year since 2009. It takes place on the public light rail system with the general public, and we have official photographers who ride with us, sans pants, to document it. One year, we encountered light rail security who tried to tell one of our photographers that he couldn’t bring his camera on board, because it would be a violation of the law. We stood in the door of the light rail car – one foot in the car, one foot on the platform – which forced the door to stay open, so our photographer wouldn’t get left behind. We explained the law to the security guard and asked him to call his supervisor, who confirmed that everything we were saying was true, and we continued with the Ride.

The best way I can encompass the rules for shooting photographs at public events is Be Aware, Be Thoughtful, and Make Good Decisions.

Lights Camera Lawsuit

I’m creating an online course called “Lights, Camera, Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography,” that will address the legal issues most pertinent to professional photographers, including many of legal issues related to event photography as well as contracts and copyright law. Leading up to the release date, I’m sending weekly updates with tips about the legalities of photography. Please add yourself to this exclusive list if you want to stay in the loop. (This venture is separate from my law practice, and this list is completely independent from the Carter Law newsletter.)

How to Legally Change Your Gender in Arizona

2016.06.17 Baltimore Pride, Baltimore, MD USA 6761 by Ted Eytan from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

This information applies to individuals who are female-to-male (FTM) and male-to-female (MTF) transgender. It does not apply to people who are non-binary.

Legally changing your gender on your records in Arizona is a straightforward process. Unlike legally changing your name, you are not required to go to court.

Physician’s Letter

To legally change your gender, you need a letter from a physician. It must be of their office letterhead and include that you are “irrevocably committed” to changing your gender and that you have received “appropriate clinical treatment.” A lawyer who assists people with legal gender changes likely has a template letter you can use.

Please note: this letter must come from a licensed physician. Getting a letter from a physician’s assistant, nurse, therapist, or social worker will not work.

Update Your Social Security Records

Once you get the letter from your physician, take it (along with the court order from your name change if you’re doing that too) to your local Social Security Office. You’ll need to complete Form SS-5, which you can get in advance. You’ll also need to bring your current driver’s license or ID card. Mark the gender you’re transitioning to on the form. (Your social security card doesn’t have your gender office, but it’s part of your social security record.)

Update Your Driver’s License

A few days after you change your social security records, go to the MVD to update your driver’s license. (Go a real MVD, not a third-party satellite office.) Bring your physician’s letter and current driver’s license. Tell the clerk you’re there to update your driver’s license, and they’ll give you the appropriate form. Mark the box for the gender you’re transitioning to. You’ll have to take a new photo and pay $12 to get your new license or ID card.

Update or Get a New Passport

Arizona will not change your birth certificate to reflect your correct gender. Since a birth certificate is required to obtain a U.S. Passport, you can generally use your passport in situations where a birth certificate is required. You will have to apply in person and complete Form DS-11. Bring your physician’s letter and your updated license or ID with you.

Keep the original physician’s letter to present at each office and in case you need it to change any additional records with your correct gender.

You can legally change your name and gender at the same time by obtaining a physician’s letter and going through the process to legally change your name through the court prior to updating your social security record, driver’s license, and other documents and records. If you need to legally change your name and gender, contact a lawyer to assist you with this process.

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Proposed AZ Law Would Outlaw Wearing a Disguise While Committing a Crime

Improv AZ - Flash Mob Fiction by Sheila Dee (used with permission)

Improv AZ – Flash Mob Fiction by Sheila Dee (used with permission)

The Arizona legislature is considering a law that would make it a crime to conceal your identity while breaking the law or to avoid being arrested or punished. Proposed by State Representatives Bob Thorpe, Brenda Barton, and David Livingston, HB 2143, would add the following t the Arizona criminal code:

A. IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR A PERSON TO WEAR A MASK, FALSE WHISKERS OR OTHER PERSONAL DISGUISE, WHETHER PARTIAL OR COMPLETE, FOR THE PURPOSE OF:
1. EVADING OR ESCAPING DISCOVERY, RECOGNITION OR IDENTIFICATION IN THE COMMISSION OF ANY PUBLIC OFFENSE.
2. CONCEALMENT, FLIGHT OR ESCAPE, WHEN CHARGED WITH, ARRESTED FOR OR CONVICTED OF ANY PUBLIC OFFENSE.
B. A VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION IS A CLASS 1 MISDEMEANOR.

Punishment for a Class 1 misdemeanor in Arizona is up to 6 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.

Speed Camera Snaps Man in a Monkey Mask (Image from CBS 5 News)

Speed Camera Snaps Man in a Monkey Mask (Image from CBS 5 News)

The purpose of this bill appears to be to go after guys like Dave VonTesmar. Dave gained notoriety in 2009 because people were driving his car and speeding past the speed cameras while wearing a monkey mask. He reportedly received close to 40 tickets, and at least half of them were thrown out because the prosecution couldn’t prove that he was the person in the picture, and therefore the driver when the offenses occurred. To date, he’s refused to pay the other tickets.

As a flash mob organizer and participant, this proposed law makes me a little nervous. If it passes, I hope law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office make a distinction between people who use a disguise in order to commit a crime or evade law enforcement and people who commit crimes while wearing costumes. It’s an issue of intent. It’s clearly wrong to wear a Nixon mask while robbing a bank to avoid being identified. But if you’re doing a flash mob or a prank that involves wearing a costume, or you’re involved in cosplay and you happen to commit a crime while you’re in costume, you shouldn’t be punished for concealing your identity, just the other crime you committed.

Let’s say somebody organized a Zombie Die-In and they did it in the street without permission, the participants could be arrested for blocking a thoroughfare. They shouldn’t be charged with concealing their identity just because they were in costume at the time. By the way, the organizers could also be facing solicitation and conspiracy if they did a stunt like this. If you’re curious about the legalities of flash mobs and pranks watch this video.

I’m curious to see if this law will be passed and what the implications will be if it does. If someone is planning on committing a crime while trying to conceal their identity, this law won’t stop them from putting on a mask or even just a hood and sunglasses to avoid being identified. It will simply give law enforcement another charge to throw at them when they get caught.

If you want to know more about flash mob law, I wrote an entire book about it. You can also connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or you can send me an email.

Carter Law Firm’s Top 5 Videos From 2013

This is where the magic happens - the couch where I record the firm's videos. Walter Ball is sitting in my spot.

This is where the magic happens – the couch where I record the firm’s videos. Walter Ball is sitting in my spot.

In September 2012, I made the commitment to put out a new video every week. Since then, I’ve done a lot of talking from the couch. Here are the top five most popular videos that were created and released this year.

1.  Can you put a Sex Video on the Internet Without Consent?

2. Response to Rehtaeh Parsons’ Suicide Due to Bullying

3. Avoid Being the next Turner Barr by Registering your Trademark

4. How to Make a Contract

5. Response to Rebecca Ann Sedwick Cyberbullying Suicide

One of the firm’s blog posts about The North Face vs The South Butt trademark issues got over 40,000 hits this year, courtesy of Reddit. Its corresponding video also got a lot of hit and is Carter Law Firm’s all-time most popular video.

I’ve hope you’ve enjoyed these videos and I look forward to sharing more with you next year. If there are any topics you hope I cover in a future video, feel free to connected with me on TwitterGoogle+FacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me. You can also subscribe to the Carter Law Firm newsletter.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

Publishing Contracts: Copyright Assignment vs Copyright License

The best analogy for copyright is a jar of markers where each marker represents one of your rights - 10 things: Sharpies by Crystl from Flickr

The best analogy for copyright is a jar of markers where each marker represents one of your rights – 10 things: Sharpies by Crystl from Flickr

I had the pleasure of speaking about the legalities of publishing at Changing Hands Indie Author Conference on February 9, 2013. My session covered the basics of copyright, the importance of registering your copyrights and publishing contracts. I wanted to do a recap of the two types of publishing contracts from a copyright perspective: copyright assignments and copyright licenses.

A copyright is the rights you get in your work. Your rights are created the instant you have an original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium. As the copyright holder, you have the exclusive right to copy, distribute, display, perform, and make derivative works based on your original work. If you want to let someone publish your work, you need a copyright assignment or a copyright license. This should be a signed contract between the parties and it should be explicit about the rights you’re giving up (if any) and what you will get in return.

Copyright Assignment
When you give someone a copyright assignment, you give them your copyright. When you have a copyright assignment, you do not own your copyright anymore; the other party does. If you publish your work after you assign it to someone, you will be committing copyright infringement, even though you were the original author of the work. Some publishers require you to assign your copyright to them or else they won’t publish your work.

If you give someone a copyright assignment and you later regret the decision, you have to buy your copyright back from them. I know at least one artist who sold the copyright in his work and later purchased it back because it was more lucrative for him to control it.

Copyright License
If you grant someone a copyright license, you retain ownership of your copyright and you give the other party permission to use some or all of your copyright rights. You may grant a publisher the rights to publish your work in print and/or as an ebook but retain the right to create an audio version of your work. J.K. Rowling retained her internet rights to the Harry Potter series when she negotiated her contract with her publishers, which is why she could create Pottermore.

If you license your work, the license should explicit state whether the license is exclusive or non-exclusive, time-limited or perpetual, and clearly state how you will be compensated for granting the other party the license.

Publishing contracts are complicated and it’s best to have a lawyer review the contract before you sign it to ensure you understand what rights you’re giving up and what rights you get to keep. As always, if there’s a portion of a contract that you don’t understand, don’t sign it.

I also created a video this week about the difference between copyright assignments and copyright licenses here.


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Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.