Balancing Act

Nov 16, 2012

As we look back over the past year, photojournalists have faced a balancing act when it comes to our rights. And that balancing act will apparently continue into the coming new year. So here are some basic facts about our rights that we need to be aware of and protect.

Many rights come into play when photographing in public. There's the First Amendment right of free speech and free press. There's also the Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure by the government. For our subjects, sometimes privacy rights come into play. While there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in pubic, that doesn't give us the right to shoot a photograph through the window of someone's home (even from a public street), because publishing it might lead to a claim for invasion of privacy. And entering or remaining on property owned by someone else, without their permission, might bring a criminal charge of trespassing. It's important to be aware of these rights, not only your own but those of others. In the coming year, advocating for the right of access is something we can all do – whether by raising awareness or educating the public and the police.

No less important than our First Amendment rights are the intellectual property rights regarding images and recordings. While NPPA fiercely advocates for the right to photograph and record in public, unless we have a way to realistically and easily enforce our copyrights, photographers will be forced to seek another profession if they can't earn a living wage due to widespread infringement. Which is why NPPA has submitted official comments to the U.S. Copyright Office supporting small claims courts to hear minor infringement cases. NPPA has participated in public hearings on this subject with NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher in New York City and NPPA Advocacy chair Alicia Wagner Calzada in Los Angeles.

And Orphan Works will be coming back to the front burner in the coming year. With the election behind us, we can expect Congress to once again consider Orphan Works legislation. NPPA will keep you informed, but it's crucial for our members to let their representatives know how they feel when proposed legislation comes up for a vote.  

While NPPA members may not get to cast a ballot on these issues, it is vitally important that we make our individual voices heard in order to better protect our precious rights. All of them. It's a balancing act, but it's one that will keep your rights strong and protected while insuring that you have access and a way to earn a living in our profession in the coming years.