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Old September 16th, 2009, 09:17 PM   #1
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Maryland
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Filming a public official

I am part of a local business group which hired me to do some short promotional videos, tape meetings, etc. This was kinda my first client considering I've only done some light video editing and a short low-budget horror film beforehand.

I've been doing these promo videos and meeting tapes for about 2 months, however next month we have kind of a "special event" where the mayor of our small town is giving a presentation (he owns a small business as well).

The mother of a co-worker of mine has a well-known political blog were they taped a public official a few months ago and the police came and seized all photo, video, & computer equipment in the household. He didn't go into the details of what was actually on the tape, but said they were told that filming a public official was illegal in Maryland under certain stipulations.

Has anyone encountered this issue before. Are there any type of forms I need to obtain or should I make up a simple release? The founder of this business group said she really wants this speech on video, so what should I do? I kinda need my camera and computer....
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Old September 16th, 2009, 09:35 PM   #2
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Why not go read your state statutes and learn the laws? Probably the bestthing. I did a quick looksee and didn't find anything obvious.
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Old September 16th, 2009, 09:58 PM   #3
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Kinda surprising that the police would come and seize everything. That's another reason why it is important to have backups.

Honestly, you'd think that public officials would want any publicity they could possibly get, or just tell you that they don't want to be filmed.

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Old September 17th, 2009, 09:05 AM   #4
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I can't speak to the specifics but I will say this:

Sometimes the police are wrong.
Generally you can shoot in public (public property).
Since public officials are open to public commentary there's even some "privacy" issues that don't pertain (under certain circumstances). You certainly can't walk into a private meeting in a privately owned building without permission.
If the public official is doing a press conference or speaking in front of the town hall (public space) you can shoot. You can't create a hazard such as block sidewalks or traffic.

Check your state laws but I doubt they'd violate US Constitution.

I OFTEN video public officials.
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Old September 17th, 2009, 10:19 AM   #5
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I have taped many public figures, including the mayor of the city of Chicago in both private and public functions, over the years BUT this is different if I read it correctly.

The mayor is giving a seminar at a private meeting as a business owner not the mayor. Is that correct?

If that's what is happening then as the videographer for the group hired by the group to do promos for the group, then you should be fine. The mayor would be acting as a private citizen as a member of the group.

If the mayor is talking to the private group as the MAYOR, about business in the town, then he as a public figure would have no recourse to the PRIVATE group recording his speech for both private and public use.

Having said this I am NOT a lawyer nor do I play one on TV so in order to clarify the situation, I would talk to the leader of the business group and find out, is the mayor talking to the group as the MAYOR OR as a private business owner and in either case does he have a problem being taped.

The case of the police coming in a grabbing everything as you stated sounds a bit fishy. If that in fact happened then there was probably something else going on. I find it hard to believe the cops would come in and grab all the stuff simply because the person videotaped the mayor at a seminar or business meeting and certainly not at an open press conference.
What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
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Old September 17th, 2009, 11:40 PM   #6
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Location: Los Angeles (recently from San Francisco)
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1. It doesn't matter whether the mayor is speaking as a government official or a private businessman. Either way, right of publicity laws apply. These vary from state to state and, without knowing yours, I have no way of knowing what they are. They won't prohibit your videoing, but they may limit what you can do with the video.

2. The police have absolutely no right to seize anything without a warrant. Moreover, you have a First Amendment right to video what you want provided you (1) are in a public place, or (2) have permission from the venue holder to video.
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