Know Your Rights as a Photographer & Filmer! [PSA from JGL +]

Want to know what your rights are as a photographer in the USA for shoot photos in public? All of us USA’ers do, as well as anyone who might travel here.

So…As a part of his hitRECORD project, kudos go out to actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (my best friend panel pal – here we are talking creativity…) for calling on the ghost of Ben Franklin to educate us via this cheesy–but very informative–cartoon by the ACLU and hitRECORD.

[Keep in mind this video talks about your rights to shoot images/video as an individual and not about shooting commercial projects in public which require a permit! But don’t fear – we have detailed all that commercial stuff for you in this awesome post here… ]


joseph gordon levitt rights w aclu and hitrecord

Keep posting this information as I use the same techniques and this has helped me.

IronMan says:

Can you recommend any follow up reading?

Roman says:

I am being asked to stop photographing all the time just because I have “big” camera. Explanation is: ” The security reasons”. When I ask If can take picture with iPhone it’s ok but DSLR is obviously terrorists tool.

Stephanie says:

I loved the video and was considering sharing it with my photography students….until it turned into a cop-bash fest.

cheney says:

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check out my video i shot at Occupy Oakland has led to 2 officers getting demoted and suspended…..nothing happened until it was over a 200,000 views on my vimeo…check it out

Jason says:

The frightening thing is with video things are getting murkier in regards to audio specifically as there is more and more instances of people being charged using anti wiretapping laws. How do we protect ourselves when law officials can find ways to make laws that don’t apply, apply?

Mathieu says:

I know I have the right to remain silent but…hahaha, brilliant vid!

Mario says:

Lmao. “Now I’m YouTube famous, but only for being a big pain in the anus.”

Mike says:

I love the concept. Here in Utah there is legislation underway to prevent photos and video from being taken on agricultural lands. I never thought I would on the same side as PETA, but un this case I am. This video here sure makes it look like the police are horrible, I am grateful for the overwhelming majority of great police officers and the work they do.

Mark says:

The “reasonable suspicion of a crime” part could be used make you stop taking photos right?

Michael says:

1st Amendment protects free speech.

What if you don’t “publish” photos you take? If they just sit on your hard drive, there is no free speech to protect. The 4th Amendment still applies in seizing the camera. Does anybody have a legal definition of publish?

At this point, does IP law take over? Can you sue for the misappropriation of IP (images on the card)?

Mike says:

There is a reasonable expectation that there is a time lag from the moment you take a photo to the moment you publish it. Whether that’s in minutes or months, there is a process. With that, taking my camera away and preventing me from publishing those photos is hurting my free speech rights.


The first amendment, which is the Bill of Rights, includes both the Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press among others. The Freedom of Speech part, that covers all american’s professional or not. Whether your photos are published or not doesn’t really impact the freedom part.

Awesome vid… isn’t that the kid from third rock from the sun…? lol Here in canada our rights are slightly different. youll still find cops trying to enforce bogus stuff like that though. The worst is the private corporations like malls and stores that claim they have a policy against photos on their property, but fail to post the policy or clearly identify where its posted when asked. In the case this happens i usually roll film and kepp bugging them about it, since here they can catch a lawsuit if they cause any damages or you get damaged in any way on their property :) e.g. slip and fall. or a security guard pushes you and you fall etc.

If you go out in public and are being filmed 24/7 by corps. and thier security cameras. It should be your given right to film their property as well. It’s gotta be some sort of insecurity that scares them about not having their property filmed. You would think a proud company with a strong corporate identity woulden’t mind having their branding / products shown in a photo / video weather its the primary subject or not.

photograph what you like! It’s your right.

thanks for sharing, great video + message!

It is great to see more of this type of education getting out there. The message really needs to be sent to all law enforcement agencies and their employees. They are the ones that need to see it.

I forwarded this to my friend Carlos Miller that runs the now famous blog “Photography Is Not A Crime”.

Micka says:

great information Thanks

Luis Bertos says:

thanks, all is well, but what happens if two years ago I took pictures from a trip to NY and then paint urban landscapes? It’s my job and the paintings were sold at an art gallery … result of those photos. .. I hope not to be punished for it :)

This is awesome! Ahaahhaha nice video! Thanks

Will Foster says:


Pranav Dhoot says:

That’s Fantastic!! =D

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