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02-18-2013, 07:54 PM   #1
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Photographer's rights - Washington State

Hi all,

I live in Seattle and this evening I was harassed by a Metro security guard while taking photos from a public vantage of a transit station. I pressed him on the domain of his authority and the legal status of the property I was standing on, but he was persistent, citing vague homeland security concerns and implying power to take unspecified actions against me if I persisted in photographing. Ultimately, I backed down because I was not sufficiently armed with specifics on what, precisely, Washington State law says regarding photographic rights and did not want to involve actual law enforcement unless I did and could approach the situation with confidence and clarity. Frustrating, but probably the smart thing for this particular evening.

So to Seattle residents -- have you found a reliable source of information on this topic, preferably something with citeable laws, precedents, etc., that I can pull out and refer to in the future when I encounter similar situations? I'd prefer something relevant to the jurisdiction I live in, rather than the broadly applied "photographers can do anything anytime" vagueness these discussions are prone to on the interwebs...

Thanks..

02-18-2013, 07:58 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Bert P. Krages Attorney at Law Photographer's Rights Page
02-18-2013, 10:15 PM   #3
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It's beyond me how security guards can possibly think eight hundred Iphones can't be filmning it all in HD video while they hassle someone with a recognizeable camera, at this point in history.
02-19-2013, 06:47 AM   #4
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If you might be willing to provide date and time of incident via public or private posting please... Better yet, did you happen to get down the name of the "mall guard"; or is the metro considered a real police force??

Either way - the "official" did in fact jump outside of their own jurisdiction based on your version of the story. Any person with a camera in a public venue (outside of an area which might require a type of fee to enter) that is outdoors - and not on private property; has the rights to photograph most anything, but... As long as that anything doesn't include taking pics of any minor; or in some cases using a tripod, or causing an obstruction to pedestrian traffic for an extended period of time.

Next step in all of this...

File a formal complaint with the metro both in writting and also via email listing the facts only - with zero opinion. Also file with both the city and county where the incident took place.

I'll look up the specific statutes on this one in the near future and post further

02-19-2013, 08:38 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by v5planet Quote
Hi all,

I live in Seattle and this evening I was harassed by a Metro security guard while taking photos from a public vantage of a transit station. I pressed him on the domain of his authority and the legal status of the property I was standing on, but he was persistent, citing vague homeland security concerns and implying power to take unspecified actions against me if I persisted in photographing. Ultimately, I backed down because I was not sufficiently armed with specifics on what, precisely, Washington State law says regarding photographic rights and did not want to involve actual law enforcement unless I did and could approach the situation with confidence and clarity. Frustrating, but probably the smart thing for this particular evening.

So to Seattle residents -- have you found a reliable source of information on this topic, preferably something with citeable laws, precedents, etc., that I can pull out and refer to in the future when I encounter similar situations? I'd prefer something relevant to the jurisdiction I live in, rather than the broadly applied "photographers can do anything anytime" vagueness these discussions are prone to on the interwebs...

Thanks..
King County's Metro Transit cops? Or Seattle PD (I don't recall if they have a transit section or not...)? (MFP - the Metro Transit is a unit of the county sheriff's office, see Metro Transit Police). Their contact info is there, I'd certainly agree with filing a formal complaint about the incident.

Jim
02-19-2013, 08:45 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Medium FormatPro Quote
If you might be willing to provide date and time of incident via public or private posting please... Better yet, did you happen to get down the name of the "mall guard"; or is the metro considered a real police force??

Either way - the "official" did in fact jump outside of their own jurisdiction based on your version of the story. Any person with a camera in a public venue (outside of an area which might require a type of fee to enter) that is outdoors - and not on private property; has the rights to photograph most anything, but... As long as that anything doesn't include taking pics of any minor; or in some cases using a tripod, or causing an obstruction to pedestrian traffic for an extended period of time.

Next step in all of this...

File a formal complaint with the metro both in writting and also via email listing the facts only - with zero opinion. Also file with both the city and county where the incident took place.

I'll look up the specific statutes on this one in the near future and post further
This was yesterday around 5:45pm. I was not shooting outdoors, but underground in one of the transit tunnels. I was NOT shooting on the platform where I could reasonably expect complaints of obstructing other passengers, but from an upper level overlooking the platforms below. I was using a tripod, though the security guard did not complain about the tripod - he complained about the act of photography itself, repeatedly stating that one "shouldn't" photograph buses or trains because of "homeland security". His reasons were no more articulate than that. I did not get his name but I do have a picture of him. Not of his face, but enough to identify him based on time/date/location (he was by far the largest security guard on duty that evening).

Thank you for the idea of submitting a formal complaint. I have actually since reviewed King County Metro Transit's Code of Conduct and not once does it mention anything about photography, homeland security, etc. The closest thing which would be applicable to what I was doing is "Engaging in any sport or recreational activities on transit property." However, this was not the problem cited -- it was security concerns related to photography.
02-19-2013, 08:46 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by RoxnDox Quote
King County's Metro Transit cops? Or Seattle PD (I don't recall if they have a transit section or not...)? (MFP - the Metro Transit is a unit of the county sheriff's office, see Metro Transit Police). Their contact info is there, I'd certainly agree with filing a formal complaint about the incident.

Jim
No, I don't think it was even a transit cop. He did not identify himself as a member of a law enforcement organization, and was simply wearing a fluorescent vest that said "Security" on it.
02-19-2013, 09:30 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by v5planet Quote
No, I don't think it was even a transit cop. He did not identify himself as a member of a law enforcement organization, and was simply wearing a fluorescent vest that said "Security" on it.
You should go out and buy a shirt that reads "Photographer" and then go back and finish snapping.

Jason

02-19-2013, 01:50 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Medium FormatPro Quote
As long as that anything doesn't include taking pics of any minor
I was under the impression you could take their picture, but not sell it. How else could security TV's pointed at sidewalks, etc., operate?

I could be wrong, and don't make a habit out of taking pictures of children, but I'm sure I've inadvertently done it when there's a crowd around.
02-19-2013, 04:57 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by v5planet Quote
No, I don't think it was even a transit cop. He did not identify himself as a member of a law enforcement organization, and was simply wearing a fluorescent vest that said "Security" on it.
Ah. The tunnels at the big transfer center downtown? Could've just been a clueless rent-a-cop type from the mall upstairs then... Every Transit cop I've ever seen is in uniform.

Jim
02-20-2013, 10:02 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Medium FormatPro Quote
...
Any person with a camera in a public venue (outside of an area which might require a type of fee to enter) that is outdoors - and not on private property; has the rights to photograph most anything, but... As long as that anything doesn't include taking pics of any minor; or in some cases using a tripod, or causing an obstruction to pedestrian traffic for an extended period of time.
...
1. A "minor" in public is not protected from being photographed. Many nervous parents think they are, but they are not. If you wish to use the shot for commercial purposes however it is wise to get a model release signed by the parents. If the minor is incidental to a larger scene (say dozens or hundreds of people) even this "may not" always be necessary.

2. Prohibitions on tripods in public spaces center more around obstruction of traffic than they do on photography (a painter could be similarly hassled for his easel). If a rent-a-cop complains when you are taking photos using a tripod, comply, put the tripod away and keep shooting handheld.

3. Standing around blocking traffic is again an obstruction issue, not a photography one.
02-12-2015, 11:44 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by SeaDogSiegmann Quote
Mr Riley, I'm Sorry To Inform You! But I Hold A Press Pass Issued From Washington - Via Seattle P.D.
And It Is Against The Law In Washington, Whether For News Or Not, To Photograph A Minor Without A Written Consent Form By The Parent Or Legal Guardian!
Can you supply written documentation on that? While there may be restrictions on commercial use, I'm curious how they could regulate private use.
02-12-2015, 12:18 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by SeaDogSiegmann Quote
Mr Riley, I'm Sorry To Inform You! But I Hold A Press Pass Issued From Washington - Via Seattle P.D.
And It Is Against The Law In Washington, Whether For News Or Not, To Photograph A Minor Without A Written Consent Form By The Parent Or Legal Guardian!
Ohhh, and I have a Masters Degree in Science.

Press passes from governing agencies are for identification purposes only and are totally irrelevant to perceived image licensing rights commercial or otherwise. I think that above statement is full of baloney. Please show me some facts that would make me full of baloney.

M
02-12-2015, 12:50 PM   #14
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In my (now) home state of Georgia, it actually is/was illegal, by mistake. No one is allowed to take a picture of a minor without permission from a parent (even the grandparents or another kid, or even if a kid is the background). It was supposed to be targeted at sex offenders as part of an overhaul of those laws in 2010, but in an oversight the wording is incredibly broad. They were going to tweak it to apply to only those on the sex offender registry, but I can't find anything that says they actually ever did change it, so I'm unclear whether it is still on the books. They were worried that it would be unconstitutional as-is so would let real predators off the hook if they tried to apply it. (And they are probably right.)
02-12-2015, 01:00 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by SeaDogSiegmann Quote
To Photograph A Minor Without A Written Consent Form By The Parent Or Legal Guardian!
A link to the relative statute would be helpful here.
I find it curious that you joined the forum today and your first post is an unsubstantiated assertion in a thread that is two years old. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, but it seems a bit irregular.
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