Posts tagged ‘law’

June 13, 2011

New Tennessee Law Bans Posting Images That Cause Emotional Distress

The new Tennessee law that bans posting images that cause emotional distress has caused a lot of stir in the media. Specifically, it outlaws posting photos on the web that cause “emotional distress” to someone and have no “legitimate purpose.” The punishment amounts to a year in prison and nearly $2,500 in fines. It is stated that there needs to be “malicious intent,” so dimwits with poor judgement can be off the hook, but the law nails down the persons who “reasonably should know” that the actions would “frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress.”

Unfortunately the wording of the law motivated by good intentions is too broad not to get into a conflict with the Freedom of Speech. For starters, it doesn’t require that the picture be of the “victim,” only that it be distressing to the “victim.” This leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

With all the criticism the law has received, we should appreciate the attempt of the Tennessee law-makers at curbing the actions of bullies and bitter jerks who, thanks to the Internet, now enjoy the access to worldwide audiences.

When the news came, we remembered a rather creepy call to our studio asking if we could place a new face on a totally naked body in another photo. We do photo montage but our company policy precludes us from handling images that feature frontal nudity and we quickly turned down the order. The caller lamented that no studio would take his order. We were glad to hear that though most probably the guy eventually found someone to do the job.

Women, and we know this as our staff and clients are primarily female, are very sensitive about their photos and often feel like executing their friends for posting lousy photos of them on Facebook – not the malicious ones but just bad photos taken from an unfavorable angle at the wrong moment. Now if these are really embarrassing shots taken by creeps for whom propriety and civility have no value, we seriously want them to be brought to court.

So, no matter how imperfect the Tennessee Law is in defining the “emotional distress”, it’s a good start for a movement to protect the dignity of ordinary persons as well as celebrities.

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June 30, 2008

The right to shoot vs. the right to publish

In November 2007, American Civil Liberties Union of Washington announced that an amateur photographer has obtained a settlement of $8,000 from the city of Seattle after he was arrested simply for taking photographs of police making an arrest. The ACLU represented the photographer in his wrongful arrest case.

It turns out people have the right to take photographs in public places. So, I should probably repeat my attempt to take pictures at the Metropolitan Opera. Last time I tried I was stopped because the flash could cause fire. They told me that despite the changes in technology, the archaic rule still applied.

So, are there any laws limiting us from taking photos when we feel so? Only two. You can’t take photos of the following:

– Military installations or operations.

– People who have a reasonable expectation of privacy, meaning people who are some place that’s not easily visible to the general public. Examples: if you take photos through someone’s window or when a person punches in his PIN number at the cash machine.

That’s in a nutshell. For details, consult the Photographers’ Guide to Privacy that explains the invasion of privacy standards in the 50 states and D.C. – http://www.rcfp.org/photoguide/?loc=interstitialskip

On the other hand, there is a difference between THE RIGHT TO SHOOT and THE RIGHT TO PUBLISH. Publishing is a rather gray area. Here are some basic rules that seem to be wide open to interpretation:

– Thou shan’t reveal other person’s private facts (e.g. medical information) unless these facts have already been revealed by such persons publicly.
– Thou shan’t place another person in a false light before the public.
– Thou shan’t take advantage of someone else’s likeness for commercial gain without their permission.
– Thou shan’t sell photographs of copyrighted work.

For examples that shed some light on these gray issues, please consult this document – http://www.kantor.com/blog/Legal-Rights-of-Photographers.pdf.

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