What First Amendment?

United States Park Police, Mounted Division. Washington DC. (Judge Mark Kearney's Ruling.)

United States Park Police, Mounted Division. Washington DC.

U.S. District Judge Mark Kearney of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has ruled that there is no First Amendment protection for recording or photographing police officers unless you are clearly protesting their actions. Weird, I know. But here are his own words:

– We find there is no First Amendment right under our governing law to observe and record police officers absent some other expressive conduct.

– Fields and Geraci essentially concede they spoke no words or conduct expressing criticism of the police before or during their image capture. They instead want to persuade us “observing” and “recording” police activity is expressive conduct entitled to First Amendment protection as a matter of law. In their view, observing is a component of “criticizing” and citizens may engage in speech critical of the government. We find no controlling authority compelling this broad a reading of First Amendment precedent. 

This Judge thinks observing and recording police is against the law!

This means if you wanted to, say, take that groovy new camera you got for Xmas down to The National Mall and make a video–accompanied by stills–of your hometown for your YouTube friends and followers, and you wanted to include everything you think that makes up the fabric of your DC life experience: museums, Memorials, restaurants, galleries, parks, tourists, cityscapes and yes even police officers, Capitol Hill Police, Park Police riding by on horseback… you know, just observing the daily life of your city… this judge thinks you are not protected by the First Amendment! He thinks it would be OK for the police to arrest you and fine you for the innocuous act of taking their picture or making a video that happens to have them in it.

Is this a great country or what?

Here is the ruling in full. You should read it.


Goodbye to Instagram.

After considering Instagram’s reconsideration I’ve decided to move on. I have downloaded my images from their server and deleted my account. All done. Good luck to them (like they need it) and to all who are sticking with them.

And truthfully, I just can’t shake the obnoxious notion that someone at Instagram proposed the idea that they start using other people’s images as if they were their own. “Hey, we’ve been providing this ‘free’ service to these moochers, they owe us!” “Sure, tell the simpletons they still own their images, but we can use them how and when we want!” — how does this kind of thinking become policy? How is that person not laughed out of the room?

I also can’t figure the “oh well — it’s not that big a deal” type of thinking prevalent among too many photographers. “What did you expect?” “It’s a free service, you’re the product.” “What’s the likelihood they’ll use your image, anyway?” — mocking those who are appalled by these attempts at a rights grab rather than the grabbers/thieves themselves is disturbing, to say the least.

And lastly, I’ve been feeling a little thinly spread these days. So this might be a good time to rethink my web presence. Do I need to be EVERYWHERE? Not really. One less place to check or to update might do the psyche good. Maybe two less places. Facebook certainly has its issues, (and they do, after all, own Instagram). Maybe the new year will bring changes in that arena as well. We’ll see.



My photos. Back home where they belong.