Beware of photographing buildings in New York!

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by hearst, Jun 30, 2004.

  1. There are two articles in today's New York Times about people being
    punished for photographing landmarks in New York City. One
    describes a Nepalese, who and was arrested for photographing
    buildings. He had overstayed his visa, and was imprisoned for three
    months before being sent home.

    The other says that two Iranian guards were deported for
    photographing landmarks.

    So you'd better carry your US passport if you plan to make pictures
    in New York.
  2. Was the guy imprisoned for taking photos or because he was still in the
    country in violation of his visa?

    While I'm typically a rather hard-core defender of civil liberties, I can accept
    that the rules are a bit different for citizens and employees of a relatively
    hostile foreign government than they are for US citizens.
  3. Check the article again. Did the New York Times actually say the Nepalese man "was arrested for photographing buildings" ...??? Or did police ask him QUESTIONS because he was videotaping landmarks, and then detain him because of the expired visa?

    I don't think anyone can be arrested for photographing buildings in New York (yet).

    Be well,
  4. david_henderson


    Think I'd better get another visit or two in whilst I'm still allowed
    in! I don't think I could view Nepal as a potentially hostile
    government- probably the most they could do is slap a tax on the
    engagement of sherpas for Everest attempts.
  5. My "hostile government" comment was concerning the Iranian guards.

    The expired visa was the issue with the Nepalese guy. Not sure whether
    three months of imprisonment is really justified, but I don't know the specifics
    of the case.
  6. he was questioned by the FBI because a building he included in a panning shot (he didn't focus on it) had an aunannounced FBI office in it.
    Here is the first few paragraphs of the story in today's NYTimes (
    ?2004, New York Times,
    In F.B.I., Innocent Detainee Found Unlikely Ally

    It took no more than a week for James P. Wynne, a veteran F.B.I. investigator, to confirm the harmless truth that only now, more than two years later, he is ready to talk about. The small foreign man he helped arrest for videotaping outside an office building in Queens on Oct. 25, 2001, was no terrorist.
    He was a Buddhist from Nepal planning to return there after five years of odd jobs at places like a Queens pizzeria and a Manhattan flower shop. He was taping New York street scenes to take back to his wife and sons in Katmandu. And he had no clue that the tall building that had drifted into his viewfinder happened to include an office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
    Yet by the time Mr. Wynne filed his F.B.I. report a few days later, the Nepalese man, who spoke almost no English, had been placed in solitary confinement at a federal detention center in Brooklyn just because of his videotaping. He was swallowed up in the government's new maximum security system of secret detention and secret hearings, and his only friend was the same F.B.I. agent who had helped decide to put him there.
    Except for the videotape ? "a tourist kind of thing," in Mr. Wynne's estimation ? no shred of suspicion attached to the man, Purna Raj Bajracharya, 47, who came from Nepal in 1996. His one offense ? staying to work on a long-expired tourist visa ? was an immigration violation punishable by deportation, not jail. But he wound up spending three months in solitary confinement before he was sent back to Katmandu in January 2002, and to release him from his shackles, even Mr. Wynne needed help.
    The clearance process had become so byzantine that the officer who had set the procedure in motion could not hasten it. Unable to procure a release that officially required signatures from top antiterrorism officials in Washington, Mr. Wynne took an uncommon step for an F.B.I. agent: he called the Legal Aid Society for a lawyer to help the jailed man.
    Now, for the first time, the F.B.I. agent and the Legal Aid lawyer, Olivia Cassin, have agreed to talk about the case and their unlikely alliance. Their documented accounts offer a rare, first-hand window into the workings of a secret world.
    Within 10 days of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Justice Department instructed immigration judges that all cases designated as "special interest" were to be handled in separate closed courtrooms, without visitors, family or reporters, and without confirming whether a case was on the docket. The secrecy left detainees with little access to lawyers.
    Visa violators would be held indefinitely, until the F.B.I. was sure the person was not involved in terrorism. As a visa violator under suspicion, Mr. Bajracharya was among hundreds placed in the special interest category, and his case was wiped from the public record.
    Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said that though he was unfamiliar with the case, the system of secrecy Mr. Bajracharya encountered is lawful and necessary. "The idea that someone who has violated our immigration laws may be of interest on a national security level as well is an unfortunate reality, post-9/11," he said. Closed hearings are legal as long as due process is provided, he said, and all abuses will be dealt with.
    But Ms. Cassin, of Legal Aid, argues that under this secret practice, there is no way to know whether other noncitizens are even now being unfairly detained. "By its very nature," she said, "it can happen again without our knowing about it."
    Mr. Bajracharya was finally returned to Nepal on Jan. 13, 2002. By then he had spent almost three months in a 6-by-9-foot cell kept lighted 24 hours a day. The unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn where he was kept has become notorious for the abuses documented there by the Justice Department's own inspector general, who found a pattern of physical and mental mistreatment of post-9/11 detainees. Videotapes showed officers slamming detainees into walls, mocking them during unnecessary strip- searches, and secretly taping their conversations with lawyers.
  7. How can we as photographers expect others to respect our copyrights when fail to respect the copyrights of others?
    A simple link will do the trick.
  8. because this kind of posting is allowed as a "fair use" in an educational context.
  9. I think it would be hard not to include a building when shooting in NYC.
  10. Pretty sickening story all around. On top of all else, NYC has a police pollution problem.
  11. Instead of making things up, please respect the author's wishes by checking the copyright policy of the site first. It's easy to do:


    Copyright Notice

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

    All rights reserved.

    All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of The New York Times Company. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.

    However, you may download material from The New York Times on the Web (one machine readable copy and one print copy per page) for your personal, noncommercial use only.

    For further information, see Section Two of the Subscriber Agreement.

    To contact other Times departments, see the Site Help area of our Member Center.


    Section 2 of the subscriber agreement says this:



    2.1 The contents of the NYT WEB Internet service are intended for your personal, noncommercial use. All materials published on NYT WEB (including, but not limited to news articles, photographs, images, illustrations, audio clips and video clips, also known as the "Content") are protected by copyright, and owned or controlled by The New York Times Company, NYTD, NYT WEB, or the party credited as the provider of the Content. You shall abide by all additional copyright notices, information, or restrictions contained in any Content accessed through the Service.

    2.2 The Service and its Contents are protected by copyright pursuant to U.S. and international copyright laws. You may not modify, publish, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, reproduce (except as provided in Section 2.3 of this Agreement), create new works from, distribute, perform, display, or in any way exploit, any of the Content or the Service (including software) in whole or in part.

    2.3 You may download or copy the Content and other downloadable items displayed on the Service for personal use only, provided that you maintain all copyright and other notices contained therein. Copying or storing of any Content for other than personal use is expressly prohibited without prior written permission from The New York Times Rights and Permissions Department, or the copyright holder identified in the copyright notice contained in the Content.

    2.4 Certain Content is furnished by the Associated Press and Reuters, which will not be liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omissions in any such Content, or in the transmission or delivery of all or any part thereof, or for any damages arising therefrom.


    The authors make money when the site makes money, and the site makes money when people go there. The site doesn't make money when the copyrights are violated by unauthorized distribution. I'm sure any professional can easily understand this.
  12. Understood, however this is a non commercial use of the material and is only the first part
    of the article notthe entire thing. If you want to hoist me on my own petard , please be my
    guest as my petard needs the exercise. If it will make you feel better, please feel free to
    turn me in to the NYT.
  13. And as for making things up...
    U.S. Copyright Law, title 17, section 107
    Sec. 107. - Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use
    Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include -
    (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
    (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
    (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
    (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
    The distinction between ?fair use? and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission. The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: ?quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author?s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.? Copyright protects the particular way an author has expressed himself; it does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in the work. The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission. When it is impracticable to obtain permission, use of copyrighted material should be avoided unless the doctrine of ?fair use? would clearly apply to the situation. The Copyright Office can neither determine if a certain use may be considered ?fair? nor advise on possible copyright violations. If there is any doubt, it is advisable to consult an attorney. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors. in its infinite wisdom has been playing with how they interpret HTML code so some of the punctuation marks are not exactly as they are here.
  14. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission.​

    However, reposting an entire article does "not let you off the hook"
  15. John, believe me I agree that respecting copyright (especially artistic and creative, which are perhaps most often violated) is essencial however a non commercial, informational, partial copy of an article is probably within the bounds of reasonable pedestrian usage. I would never have seen this story, not being a Times subscriber, had it not been posted here. I'm very grateful.
  16. Mr Ellis, you should leave law to the lawyers and stick to photography. You are out of your league. Please sit down.
  17. A.) I did not post the entire article. If you had bothered reading the article that a link was
    published to you would know that.

    B.) I am now officially sitting down.
  18. well me again, standing up i nthis thread one more time, to say thank you to "EyeZ' for the
    link to the nolo site. Sititng down again sir.
  19. I didn't say you posted the whole article. (I didn't know if you had or hadn't.) I was just
    hoping to forestall anyone's future uploading of entire articles to the site.

    The Nolo site, and its books, are quite good.
  20. Better wear your hard hats, the sky is still falling.

    Not reading it in the Times is no excuse, it's been discussed to excess in forums here, other forums, been in various other news outlets, been on the web, etc. Many photographers run around screaming that it's illegal to take pictures in New York but can't point to anything official or the incidents they point to don't hold up under scrutiny of the facts. Why? Because it's not illegal to take pictures in New York!

    As to Ellis not understanding copyright? Get real. Some of the most common topics in some of these forums are basic copyright questions. A photographer that doesn't have a working understanding of copyright has ignored an important and basic part of the hobby or business.
  21. This is really too bad, but I guess it's a sign of the times. Last week I took the subway (called Metro Rail) from N. Hollywood to Union Station. At last out tax dollars at work. What a joy to get to downtown without the traffic and sky high parking fees. I thought of taking a few quick shots on the subway, but being what happened in Spain, I thought I'd better just leave well enough alone. I didn't see any security cameras, but anyway my film was too fast. I also would have liked to get some shots in Union Station which is a beautiful LA landmark, but again, maybe another time.
    Be Well,
  22. It's a classic keystone cops move - only it's not funny.

    The US spent years and years and billions of taxpayer dollars fighting the Soviets through the coldwar and now they are working fast and hard to emulate them. Should we laugh or cry? Part of the whole mess they've got on their hands is because of their policies in the 70's and 80's in Afghanistan.

    It's almost a joke - The Christians, The Muslims and the Jew's can't get thier *X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#* figured out and the Bhuddist get dumped in the cooler for it.
  23. The sky is falling, the sky is falling... I guess we won't be seeing any more SP from NYC.
    The hysteria continues...
  24. Still flaunting your casual contempt, Brad?

    Is there anything you *do* care about?
  25. Err, shouldn't this really be "Beware of photographing buildings in
    New York if you're in the country illegally or if you're UN personnel from a country we have
    no diplomatic relations with who can be ejected at will"

    It's a lesson I certainly understood when I was 19 (nearly 20 years ago) and had warrants
    for unpaid traffic tickets in three states: if you're living outside the law, don't do anything
    to attract their attention!

    I find the treatment some folks have received for merely being in the country illegally
    reprehensibly harsh, but that's far from the photographic issue here.

    The Iranian UN guards we asked nicely to stop videotaping bridges, etc., and only when
    they declined to comply did we kick them out.
  26. Based on the citations (thanks everyone) it seems pretty clear to me that Elis' excerpt is definitely "fair use". As to posting a link instead, the NYT makes you subscribe to read a lot of their stuff (I did long ago, but they're a bit obnoxious with their popups and spam).

    And with respect to photographing buildings from the street, I'm not too concerned about that right disappearing. Nothing wrong with howling about it though - that helps keep our rights intact.
  27. "John Williams , jun 30, 2004; 07:07 p.m.
    Mr Ellis, you should leave law to the lawyers and stick to photography. You are out of your league. Please sit down."

    If the law can only be quoted or excerpted by lawyers, then we're all in a heap of trouble. Taken to its logical conclusion, it means that only those skilled in the law can attempt to understand it. And without understanding, how can any one citizen expect to obey that same law?

    What we have here is a shortage of common sense, which Ellis was attempting to supply.

    My novice legal opinion is that, since the NYT's posts these articles essentially "free of charge" on the internet, then they can be quoted. And if they want to spam my email account, they can just log onto and find my address anyway, even if I'm not logged onto their database.

    Similarly, if you don't want your photos copied, don't post them in such a way that I can right-click and hit "save as", from your web page.

    As for the subject of this thread, my novice opinion is that the INS set a decades-old legal precedent of not prosecuting expired visas, way before September 2001. And then they changed that precedent, almost overnight, because of the aftermath of 9/11. I've no fundamental issue with that, even though, under different circumstances that kind of knee-jerk policy change would be labelled as bad politics. But hey, for the price of 3000 lives, I'm willing to live with that; its not the first time the federal government has mismanaged policy.

    What I've a real issue with is the erosion to our (American's) fundamental liberities, that were paid for in the blood of a hell of a lot more than 3000 lives.

    And I consider the right to capture images in public, unannounced, without permission, an extension of our 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech.

    But, hey, I'm just a legal novice, not a lawyer. I could be all wrong.
  28. Having had the misfortune of working for an attorney who thought his background automatically qualified him to be an Aerospace executive, I can only saw that law should NOT be left to the lawyers...This fellow buried us in ligitation and ran off our entire customer base in a year.
  29. John ,

    Well so one idiot makes all lawyers idiots? Shall we apply that attitude to photographers
    and engineers as well?

    sitting back down (again).
  30. Thanks to Ellis for making an interesting thread.

    Best thread I've read in probably a month, things are not what they used to be on photonet.

    I read the article in its original printed form but still enjoyed a rerun here on photonet.
  31. Copyright and the internet are 2 things that are in opposite relationship it
    seems. i was sent a link to a page for a korean website, a blog I think, in
    which my entire portfolio appears. I've seen an image of mine show up here
    and there, but never all of them! No one ever asked my consent for this
    usage. Apparently they downloaded all of the images from the web site of one
    of my galleries. However to their credit they had several links to my site
    posted and gave me full credit for the images, so I have decided to accept ths
    merely as a free advertisement for me. Nevertheless, it is still disconcerting
    when you run across these things.
  32. Ellis: of course not, painting with a broad brush always sounds negative. This fellow didn't work alone; the real problem was that checks and balances on absurd behavior were not there.....and people with power, even tho their behavior might be irrational or totally stupid, inevitably attracts other who crave power, and lack moral fiber. (I call this the Martin Bormann syndrome)
  33. What a crock, there's nothing wrong or illegal about printing an attributed story for educational use. I'd be more concerned about the content of the artical instead of wasting peoples time with false and incorrect information about the legality of reproducing it. As far as the Nepalese man being arrested, he may have been simply detained for questioning and not arrested, however the detention was for what, about two months? It wasn't simply questioning, it was solitary confinement with no formal charges, no legal representation,in a to my view in a extra-judicial excersise that even our supreme court is begining to question. You could not call being picked up for simple questioning unless you live in the paranoic world of twisted new-speak of Ashcroft, Chaney, etc.
  34. Wait a minute... I thought the issue or topic for discussion here was the threat of being arrested and/or having one's camera(s) confiscated for photographing buildings in NYC... (how about monuments and historical sites?); we've digressed a bit, no?

    The sorry truth is that there for the present, THERE ARE NO LAWS that PROHIBIT photographing buildings, bridges, historical sites, monuments, etc. Let's put this bovine manure to rest: if any terrorist really wanted to get blueprints or photographs of any building, historical site or monument or bridge, don't you think they'd find it in a public library or the Internet? Be real, please.

    Also, no police officer, federal govenment agent or security guard can legally confiscate your property (camera) without him/her-self being liable to prosecution for enfringing on your constitional rights. Has anyone checked the Constitution lately?

    Rather than get into a circular discussion, how about if someone consult an attorney? Wouldn't that put matters to rest? And please, the government is doing a fine job at scaring the public with exaggerated "threat" of terrorism, let's not add to that, OK? That's how they justify their (exorbitant) expenditure of public funds!
  35. Actually, there are laws that could be applied to a variety of photo subjects. And that also has been discussed to excess. But the generic "it's illegal to take pictures in New York (or Los Angeles subways, etc.)" are patently wrong.

    Read Bert Krages' handout, read the LoC on copyright, read Title 18 Chapter 37 US Code, read the Patriot Act, take a little time. It's tough, there aren't any pictures.
  36. I think the main issue to get ahold of here is not is it legal or illegal to take photographs here or there, but that current interpretations of the Patriot act allow officials to act extra judicially and to determine on what can be totally arbitrary reasons whether to confiscate your camera or "detain", sometimes for long periods of time without any due process. I think thas somthin needs esplaining lucy.
  37. That looked like you broke your own law, buddy. You steal a copyright notice to prove how binding the copyright notice is?

    Just for love of the sound of my own gas, I weigh in on the side of civil liberties.
  38. Barry Fisher

    interpretations of the Patriot act allow officials to act extra judicially and to determine on what can be totally arbitrary reasons whether to confiscate your camera or "detain", sometimes for long periods of time without any due process.


    This sums up the problem(s) that I have been reading in this forum with photographers being hassled for doing what they have been doing for 150 years. It's this grey area that could have significant ramifications for any or all of us. The truth is that the law is taking a backseat to fear right now and stories such as this are going to become more frequent. The idea that this man had to spend 3 months in prison for such a simple violation is ludicrous and frightening.

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