June 6, 2011

Chief Adderly: Movie Crews Are Not Above The Law

This is in reference to this Pixiq story, and the images found there.

I know these Hollywood types are very impressive, but just because they insist that you do certain things, it does not mean that you can or should do them.  It's just a goddamn movie.  Filming a movie does not grant them any special rights or privileges.  They have to abide by the law; the law does not abide by the film crew.

I know that they are pressuring you to stop people from taking pictures of the film in progress.  I've worked in the entertainment business for 25 years, and I know that I frequently request that people stop taking photographs.  I've even kicked people out of my theater for taking photographs.

The thing is, my theater is private property.  I sell admittance to it at my discretion, and I have the right to revoke their right to be there.  Tickets are sold with conditions.

Note that even if I catch them taking photographs,  I can't take their cameras or their film, or their memory cards; it is illegal to seize private property without a court order (in the form of a subpoena or warrant).  I can only kick them out.

But you do not have that legal recourse on public property.  The public pays for it, they have the right to be there.  Furthermore, they have the right to take pictures or movies of anything they see from that public property, even the filming of a movie.   Court rulings are very clear on this; it is not and can not be against the law to take pictures or movies of anything you can see from a public right-of-way.  They have ruled that photography is a form of communication, and thus is protected speech under Amendment 1 of the U.S. Constitution.

No state or municipal law may override the Constitution, and no law may infringe the rights guaranteed therein.  Even if it pisses of some piss-ant film crew. 

Now, I don't know which shit-for-brains ass-kisser motivated officer did it, but all those signs being put up stating that "photography of this area is prohibited" are not only insulting, they are also without any legal support whatsoever.  I understand that a lot of these officers are off-duty.  But they are exposing the city to legal action, and that should not be tolerated. Anyone you cite for taking photos, or worse yet, actually arrest, has the basis for a lawsuit that they will win.  Every time this kind of thing has come up before the courts, the court has ruled that photography is protected speech.  Every. Single. Time.

Now you're going to tell me that even though the streets are closed for the filming, you're trying to maintain access to businesses there.  And that's laudable.  But you cannot have it both ways; if you're letting the public on the sidewalk, then all their rights come with them.  So if you want to keep the cameras out, keep the public out.  The film company is responsible to recompense the businesses for their loss - it's actually included in the language of the permit.  And the film company needs to make its choice; either shut everything down completely and foot that bill, or let the public in and live with the cameras.  It's their choice; pay up, or put up with it.  But violating the civil rights of citizens isn't on their list of options.  And it's not on yours, either.

So to sum this up for you: if it's a public space, and the public is allowed to be there, so are cameras, and the public can use those cameras to take pictures of anything they see and there is nothing the Fort Lauderdale PD can do about it without violating the law.


  1. Thank you for writing this. It is an excellent piece. Please see http://www.nppa.org/news_and_events/news/2011/06/miami.html for a followup story. As General Counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) I sent letters of protest to the Police Chiefs and Mayors in both Ft. Lauderdale and Miami Beach (illegal seizure of cameras after the recent fatal shooting)

  2. "Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "The answer is yes. Anyone can take can a picture of anyone else in public, no matter their age, without their permission. And unbelievably, Florida law does not even prevent child molesters from taking pictures of children."

    Read more: http://www.wsvn.com/features/articles/helpmehoward/MI92017/#ixzz1OmvZV4Ct