July 1, 2021 - Since the release of the Photo Bill of Rights in June 2020, the NPPA has been in consultation with the organizations involved in drafting the document regarding future steps. We wanted to take this moment to inform you, our members, that a forthcoming addition to the ‘Beyond the Bill’ is in the works. It will clarify topics that have been circulating in recent weeks in the public discourse, centered around how to minimize harm while out in the field.
On June 7, 2021, the NPPA published a guest commentary from past president Michael P. King supporting the association’s involvement with the Photo Bill of Rights. On June 21, 2021, NPPA member Mark Loundy published an opposing view on Medium, which has undergone several changes since its original publication.
While not an addition to the actual Photo Bill of Rights, the upcoming resources in ‘Beyond the Bill’ will be essential to continue crucial, sometimes uncomfortable, conversations. These conversations are happening in newsrooms around the country and among our members, with or without us. Our goal with the addition is to provide tools and guidance to inform those conversations, especially for the newest photographers joining our ranks, who are sometimes from outside the traditional paths of journalism education. We recognize these considerations and ethical guideposts are common practice among many of our professional members. That is why as NPPA leaders we should offer a guiding light for future generations by thinking deeply about these issues now. They are impacting our ever-evolving profession as it finds its place in an ever-evolving world. As advocates for the rights of visual storytellers, it is our duty to ensure our voices will be heard in the workplace and that our members are empowered to act ethically and responsibly.
When it comes to public discourse, we have been disappointed to see online behavior that runs counter to a vital section of NPPA’s Code of Ethics. Let us take this moment to remind each other of the importance of this line to which all members have pledged: “Do not engage in harassing behavior of colleagues, subordinates or subjects and maintain the highest standards of behavior in all professional interactions.”*
When considering opposition to NPPA’s support of the PBoR, the following facts are important:
- By signing onto the PBoR and assisting with this upcoming ‘Beyond the Bill’ addition, NPPA acknowledges support for these ongoing conversations in the workplace, in the field and in educational institutions. However, suggested questions, considerations and conversations are not a mandate for action or inaction.
- There is a line of text taken out of context in Loundy’s op-ed as submitted. It is important to read this text in its original context, which includes the phrase “if and when applicable” and presents the language as a suggested sample dialogue. It can be found in the document’s toolkit, and not in the PBoR document itself:
Informed consent if and when applicable requires a full understanding of where and how that media may appear, as well as the potential consequences of publication. Stay tuned for a full chapter in “Beyond the Bill” that will detail more issues surrounding minimizing harm.
SAMPLE DIALOGUE: MINIMIZING HARM
Applies to fast-paced situations like protests, in situations that are rapidly evolving, or situations unbalanced in power for the source like an immigration case or a criminal proceeding.
- NPPA was instrumental in the creation of the PBoR, as one of the original authors of the document.
- NPPA’s Code of Ethics has always been clear that photographers should “Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects and compassion to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when the public has an overriding and justifiable need to see.”
- In the U.S. it is well-established that when a photographer is in a public place where he/she/they have a legal right to be present, photography/recording of any person or thing that is clearly visible is legally permitted.
- This is also predicated on the principle that “there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place.” That legal holding should not be conflated with "implied consent" to be photographed. The right to photograph and record is separate and distinct from the rights and limitations that apply to photographers with regard to what they are able to do with those images (i.e. editorial versus commercial use).
- Typically, commercial use of an image of a person’s likeness requires a model release, which is also advisable in some editorial use situations, particularly when sensitive health issues are involved.
The NPPA firmly believes in freedom of speech and of the press, with open and respectful discourse among its members. It is in that spirit that we have linked to the op-eds and wanted to address the conversations taking place.
Going forward, we will be forming a more specific policy around op-eds and letters to the editor in order to provide more transparency around our editorial process.
*Clarification, Aug 5, 2021: The resolution introduced by Mark Loundy and Mark Hertzberg is an example of the proper use of our governance process to voice opposition to the Photo Bill of Rights. There have been others who chose to voice opposition by engaging in the behavior mentioned in this paragraph, and we hope it serves as a reminder that we are better than that.