Know your rights as a photographer


If you're standing in a public place, you can photograph everything you can see. True or false?

You need a permit to photograph in a national park. True or false?

Perhaps a visit here will help you understand your rights:


The "Ansel Adams Act" was introduced in Congress about 18 months ago to make explicitly clear what your rights are.

(You can follow it, currently stuck in committee, here:

Here is the text of the bill:

[Congressional Bills 113th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[H.R. 5893 Introduced in House (IH)]

  2d Session
                                H. R. 5893

        To restore the First Amendment Rights of Photographers.



                            January 2, 2015

 Mr. Stockman introduced the following bill; which was referred to the 
 Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and in addition to the 
Committees on Natural Resources, Agriculture, and the Judiciary, for a 
 period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for 
consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the 
                          committee concerned


                                 A BILL

        To restore the First Amendment Rights of Photographers.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the ``Ansel Adams Act''.


    Congress finds as follows:
            (1) In recent years, the Federal Government has enacted 
        regulations to prohibit or restrict photography in National 
        Parks, public spaces, and of government buildings, law 
        enforcement officers, and other government personnel carrying 
        out their duties.
            (2) In recent years, photographers on Federal lands and 
        spaces have been threatened with seizure and forfeiture of 
        photographic equipment and memory cards, and have been arrested 
        or threatened with arrest for merely recording what the eye can 
        see from public spaces.
            (3) Even in the absence of laws or regulations, Federal law 
        enforcement officers, other government personnel, and private 
        contractors have been instructed to prohibit photography from 
        public spaces, and threatened photographers with arrest or 
        seizure of photographic equipment.
            (4) Arresting photographers, seizing photographic 
        equipment, and requirements to obtain permits, pay fees, or buy 
        insurance policies are abridgments of freedom of speech and of 
        the press.
            (5) The First Amendment of the United States Constitution 
        states, ``Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the 
        freedom of speech, or of the press.''.
            (6) Still and motion photographs are speech.
            (7) The photography by Ansel Adams and other famous 
        photographers helped bring home to Americans the beauty and 
        fragility of our natural resources.
            (8) Ansel Adams' photographs helped build public support to 
        make Yosemite into a National Park.
            (9) Future ``Ansel Adams'' must not have their paths 
        blocked, regulated and made more expensive with fees and fines, 
        or be threatened with arrest and seizure of their equipment.


    (a) In General.--It is contrary to the public policy of the United 
States to prohibit or restrict photography in public spaces, whether 
for private, news media, or commercial use.
    (b) Should a Federal agency seek to restrict photography of its 
installations or personnel, it shall obtain a court order that outlines 
the national security or other reasons for the restriction. Such court 
order shall allow restrictions of photography when such photography may 
lead to the endangerment of public safety or national security. Nothing 
in this Act shall restrict Federal agencies from taking lawful steps to 
ascertain whether or not photography may consist of reconnaissance for 
the purpose of endangerment of public safety or national security or 
for other unlawful activity. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to 
repeal, invalidate, or supersede section 795 of title 18, United States 
    (c) Prohibition on Fees, Permits, or Insurance.--No Federal 
Government agency shall require fees, permits or insurance as a 
condition to take still or moving images on Federal lands, National 
Parks and Forests, and public spaces, whether for private, media, or 
commercial use.
    (d) Prohibition on the Seizure and Forfeiture of Photographic 
Equipment.--Federal law enforcement officers or private contractors 
shall not seize any photographic equipment or their contents or memory 
cards or film, and shall not order a photographer to erase the contents 
of a camera or memory card or film.


    ``Photography'' means any form or method of capturing and recording 
or transmitting still or moving images.

Tracy Valleau, moderator