Last Saturday, Baltimore police arrested Noah Scialom, a contributing photographer to the Baltimore City Paper, while they were breaking up a Halloween party. Scialom, as he reports, had identified himself as press and began photographing the incident. He left the house with the other party goers until he reached the sidewalk, and continued to take pictures, when he was roughly taken to the ground and arrested.
It’s a familiar story to anyone who regularly uses a camera in public, and a source of constant tension between police and the press, between the needs of security and the Constitutional rights of citizens. The National Press Club held a discussion in October on the subject as part of their Free Speech Week, inviting photographers, lawyers, and even a representative from the D.C. Metro Police Department to share their thoughts.
So what rights do you have to record in public? While the answer seems straight-forward to most of us (if it’s in the public realm, we can record it), the courts are only just beginning to define the right through rulings. But this first step is great news for photographers. The nation’s founders probably didn’t predict the prevalence of smartphones in 2013, so having defined rules about how the First Amendment applies to modern-day recording devices benefits everybody. [Read more…]