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Old December 10th, 2007, 01:42 PM   #1
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Video paranoia: Has this happened to you?

Lately I have been experiencing some extreme distrust from the public when I show up with my videocamera. Sometimes it is wildly out of proportion to the situation. For instance, I have had a FAR easier time getting permission to shoot video in the operating room of a major hospital that I have had at my local supermarket!

Does that happen to any of you and how do you deal with it?
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Old December 10th, 2007, 02:26 PM   #2
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Hmmm, I dunno, do you look like a terrorist? I let my beard grow a couple days and... hasn't been a problem yet, but I suppose?

Seriously though, I've noticed that many stores now have a posting right at the door that ALL camera use is prohibited in the store. Don't know if it's paranoia, or if they are trying to protect against comparson shoppers from the competition or what (I've discreetly shot pix of a price so I can go get a "price match"...). Undoubtedly there is an element of "protective" prevention from someone scoping out a site for an attack - sure you're shooting a camera today, but the public is very aware that tomorrow someone may be shooting bullets instead, or worse... and some psychos like to "document"...

There are also lots of issues surrounding use of images (both corporate and individual) in any event. I think most people are well aware of some of the freaky things some people do with cameras (can you say IR filter?), and then there's the pedophiles. People are a bit touchy about who is shooting and WHY.

You summed it up when you said PERMISSION - you really must consider that not everyone is comfortable with being on tape/film without knowing who is behind the lens and why - nevermind that as a practical matter we probably are on tape (ATM, traffic cam, security cam, etc, etc) many times a day just living a normal life!

Not sure if that answers your question, but might help you understand...


Just curious what sort of rig you shoot? Is there anything that might trigger suspicion? Any odd missle shaped attachments or whatnot?
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Old January 1st, 2008, 01:17 PM   #3
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This old adage comes to mind:

"It's easier to get forgiveness than permission."

Despite offering that, I can't recommend trying it. Shooting without permission, and likely flouting an establishment's set policies while doing so, will only get people p-o'ed, and could lead to police involvement, with you on the dirty end of it all. You certainly don't want that, because you'll almost always lose, and the police have little choice but to bow to the wishes of the property owner. Remember, police are enforcers of the law, not judges.

Bear in mind that businesses are considered private property and therefore can dictate what occurs on their property. I have a part-time position at a local retail establishment which has the "no recording" policy posted at each door. Despite that, people don't notice them. I've seen (foreign) customers taking photos (and were not stopped by management) that appeared to be "tourist" shots, though one can never be sure what someone's motives are.

I can understand people's concern, however unlikely it is that you are planning a break-in at your local supermarket or home improvement center.

In my state, little by little, every podunk town has been passing and enforcing film permit ordinances, giving each town their own inconsistent measure of control over how much $$ goes into the town coffers (more likely someone's pocket) when you take out a camera. It seems like a way to be able to stop you if they don't like you, or at least pocket some $$ in the process.

This past summer, I was taping some traffic at a local intersection to submit as an example of panning/focusing on a moving object. I was stopped by the cops, and only allowed to proceed because I had printed a copy of the req's, rules, and web site of the potential client, as well as carrying my business card. They were very polite, and let me proceed, but had to check out what I was doing. After doing so, they left me alone. I have a hunch if I had gone to the police, I would have been directed to town hall, which was closed on Sat, and it would have taken a week or more to get permission to film 10 mins. of moving vehicles, of which I used about 60 seconds. In my general area, it's getting bad. (It doesn't help that scenes of some episodes of The Sopranos were shot in my town, and the county government had prohibited shooting for that series on county property because many of the politicians are of Italian descent, and they thought the show was derogatory of Italians in general).

Bottom line: shooting outside a studio in my general area is getting more and more restrictive, and I see it only getting worse over time both here and in other areas of the country.

Pardon my cynicism, but it gets depressing sometimes.
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 12:06 AM   #4
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I was in Oak Glen Ca awhile back, it's a big tourist spot for apple orchards and craft stores. One lady wanted a pic with mom in one store and the owner's were real adamant against it.

Curiosity got to me and I finally asked the owner why no pics and she said to prevent folks from copying their store design and setup. Once it hits the Internet the whole world can see it I guess.
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 08:31 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse James View Post
I was in Oak Glen Ca awhile back, it's a big tourist spot for apple orchards and craft stores. One lady wanted a pic with mom in one store and the owner's were real adamant against it.

Curiosity got to me and I finally asked the owner why no pics and she said to prevent folks from copying their store design and setup. Once it hits the Internet the whole world can see it I guess.
With all due respect to that store owner...that's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard!!
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 11:34 AM   #6
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My parents owned an arts and craft supply store for many, many years and traveled to shows etc, and it's a cutthroat business, and they are very, very territorial. Not only about the layout of the store etc, but the actual products, most were personally created and they didn't want the competition "reverse engineering" them.

It is getting out of hand though, pretty soon we will all be doing 3-D animations because we aren't allowed to shoot anybody anywhere outside of a studio LOL.

whatever happened to shooting, taping, photographing what you could see in public being allowed? (rhetorical question)
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Old January 3rd, 2008, 06:31 PM   #7
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I also think that people are becoming less willing to be on film with the rising popularity of video sharing sites such as YouTube, where everyday people can achieve worldwide notoriety in a matter of weeks, as well as movies like Borat, where people agreed to be filmed for one thing, but it ended up being used for a completely different purpose.
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Old January 13th, 2008, 11:45 AM   #8
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In Germany, the major discount supermarket chains never allow shooting on their property. They make no exceptions, even if there were good news to be reported about their stores. I guess they had a lot of negative experiences with boulevard journalism.

I was once followed and screamed at by a woman who thought she had been on camera. I hadn't even seen her standing in the background while I had been shooting two policemen on patrol through the city (who of course willingly participated in a piece for regional tv). With the combined persuasive abilities of my journalist colleague and the two policemen (!) we were able to convince her after about 5 minutes of her raging around that 1. we didn't film her on purpose and 2. we would of course not use that picture if she said so. She was really psycho and I was glad I wasn't alone...
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Old January 24th, 2008, 09:57 AM   #9
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everytime u back down, it hurts the guy behind you.

You can shoot at anytime from any public place in the United States.
Some states have laws which define a public space as a space (malls) with public access.
No podunk law supersedes the Constitution.
This does not mean you won't be arrested.
It does mean a settlement for you if you purse the false arrest.
Take it from a former news photog who had to fight this fight almost daily for 14 years.
With cops who knew me while wearing station id.
We all had to fight this fight constantly.

Instead of pulling out the clients web address, pull out the 1st amendment.
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Old January 24th, 2008, 10:09 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary Chavez View Post
You can shoot at anytime from any public place in the United States.
Some states have laws which define a public space as a space (malls) with public access.
No podunk law supersedes the Constitution.
This does not mean you won't be arrested.
It does mean a settlement for you if you purse the false arrest.
Take it from a former news photog who had to fight this fight almost daily for 14 years.
With cops who knew me while wearing station id.
We all had to fight this fight constantly.

Instead of pulling out the clients web address, pull out the 1st amendment.
Awesome post, man! Thanks for that!

I have another legal question that you may be able to answer. I shot some footage recently of some possibly illegal activities going on in the shed in my neighbor's yard. The view was from the back bedroom window as if I were sitting on the bed. I didn't climb a fence or poke a camera INTO his house to get that shot. I merely pointed the camera OUT of our window. Am I violating his privacy if I videotape him while he is outside, even though he is on his property, and I did nothing unusual to get that shot?

A full description of the situation as well as a still of the backyard can be seen here...

http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=1849
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Old January 24th, 2008, 11:16 AM   #11
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I think there's some research to be done as far as 'reasonable expectation of privacy' which I *think* would make this an issue.

I don't pretend to know how the law applies to your specific situation, I've just heard that phrase thrown around all the time.

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Old January 10th, 2009, 08:25 AM   #12
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Yet another instance in support of Gary's comments:

CBS 46 Employees Arrested While Reporting Story - Atlanta News Story - WGCL Atlanta

In case the link expires, the gist of the story is an Atlanta area CBS affliliate crew was unlawfully detained in the Atlanta City Hall public lobby while doing a piece about poor water department customer service. At least the police department apologized for the infringement by its employee.

Although hardly a sterling example of journalistic objectivity -- written with a painfully obvious bias toward the affronted journalists -- I thought this was an interesting take on how the police department might handle wrongdoing:
Quote:
If the officer or officers involved did violate the law, we're told disciplinary action could be taken.
I'm not a lawyer, law enforcement professional, or journalist (although IMO anyone creating a tangible chronical of the world around them is a journalist, not just those who are employed by a news org...but that's a whole 'nother thread) but my J.Q. Public sensibility says that if the policeman illegally detained people with no justifiable cause whatsoever, that is wrongdoing outside the scope of his duties and ought to be charged as a crime, not an internal policy matter to be silently "disciplined." Of course, there's always the tort law side of things, which seems to be how "The Blue Wall of Silence" eventually gets penetrated in the really bad cases.

I guess the upshot in my mind is to comply with even an unlawful order, except to let the tape continue to roll if you're able, and sort it out later. In the end, it will most likely have been better to be on the high ground than get into a mud wrestling contest.
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Old January 12th, 2009, 08:42 AM   #13
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Correct assessment.
You will never win on the street level. Resist and thats a charge that will stick.
Always roll, always be polite, always question and always comply.
This way you will win the lawsuit.
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Old January 13th, 2009, 10:45 AM   #14
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I remember 5 years ago doing indie film work right out of film school that 99% of the people we talked to about shooting at business locations were excited and very helpful even though there was no payment involved. Now it seems I can't even finish my opening sentence of "I'm a filmmaker and would like to use your location for a film."

My theory is that since then we have had Jackass, Borat, and irresponsible imitators. The main reason I get a no from someone is that they've let someone film at their business before and it didn't go well. I read police reports all the time now of teens with prop guns running around some place trying to make an action movie.

How long before "on set lawyer" becomes a regular crew position?
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