In a photography rights lawsuit today, the federal government conceded that people have a constitutional right to take photographs and create video recordings outside of federal buildings. The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a federal photography rights lawsuit last April on behalf of Antonio Musumeci, a software developer for an investment bank, who was harassed and detained last November by federal officers because he videotaped a political protester in a public plaza outside the Federal Courthouse for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.
When the federal officers noticed that Musumeci was using a hand-held camera to record the protester, they approached him, grabbed his arms, forced him to the pavement, and confiscated the video from his camera. After detaining him for 20 minutes, they issued him a bogus ticket for violating a federal regulation. The ticket was later dismissed. It is not uncommon in New York for federal officers to threaten videographers and photographers with arrest if they attempt to photograph or record any activity in or around federal buildings, despite there being no laws requiring them to do so.
Photography Rights Tip: The government cannot arrest people simply for taking pictures in a public plaza, and they have no authority to bar photography on public sidewalks and plazas.
The settlement, approved yesterday by a federal judge in the very courthouse Musumenci was detained in front of, serves as an acknowledgement by the federal government that there are no federal laws or regulations that prohibit photography or video recordings outside of federal buildings and to respect photography rights. Included in the settlement is a requirement that federal officers will be instructed that the public has a right to photograph and record any activity in public areas outside of federal buildings. This decision affirms videography and photography rights to create images in public areas outside of all federal buildings nationwide.