Some tourists, amateur photographers, even would-be filmmakers hoping to make it big on YouTube could soon be forced to obtain a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance before taking pictures or filming on city property, including sidewalks. New rules being considered by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and insurance. The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment.
Having apparently solved all of New York City’s pressing problems, city government is now focused with laser-beam intensity on the worst remaining problem- people taking pictures in groups. Never mind that New York City is probably the most heavily filmed and photographed city in the world. No, and don’t worry about the fact that tourism is the lifeblood of New York City. How long will it be before some over-zealous, self-important police officer decides that a Japanese tourist and his family of seven are a threat to public safety because they’re using a tripod to get a family picture at Columbus Circle? All protestations to the contrary, this WILL happen, and probably sooner and more often than Ms. Cho is willing to admit. Never mind that this is a stupid idea on it’s face, it’s also an invitation to official abuse.
Then again, these new rules are EXACTLY the sort of thing a bureaucratic DUMB@$$ could get behind. This is where Ms. Cho comes in.
The group [The New York Civil Liberties Union] also warns that the rules set the stage for selective and perhaps discriminatory enforcement by police.
“These rules will apply to a huge range of casual photography and filming, including tourists taking snapshots and people making short videos for YouTube,” said Christopher Dunn, the group’s associate legal director.
Mr. Dunn suggested that the city deliberately kept the language vague, and that as a result police would have broad discretion in enforcing the rules. In a letter sent to the film office this week, Mr. Dunn said the proposed rules would potentially apply to tourists in places like Times Square, Rockefeller Center or ground zero, “where people routinely congregate for more than half an hour and photograph or film.”
The rule could also apply to people waiting in line to enter the Empire State Building or other tourist attractions.
The rules define a “single site” as any area within 100 feet of where filming begins. Under the rules, the two or more people would not actually have to be filming, but could simply be holding an ordinary camera and talking to each other.
The rules are intended to set standards for professional filmmakers and photographers, said Ms. Cho, assistant commissioner of the film office, but the language of the draft makes no such distinction.
“While the permitting scheme does not distinguish between commercial and other types of filming, we anticipate that these rules will have minimal, if any, impact on tourists and recreational photographers, including those that use tripods,” Ms. Cho said in an e-mail response to questions.
Oh, yeah…and we anticipate that the silliness will commence as soon as these rules are given the force of law. While rapists, drug dealers, murderers, and terrorists will be crawling over the five boroughs…HEY, IS THAT A TRIPOD??? UP AGAINST THE WALL!!!!
I understand where the city is wanting to go with these rules, but how will police be educated to distinguished between tourists trying to get a decent picture and those filming for commercial or artistic purposes? And just imagine the fun that will ensue the first time a Japanese shutterbug and his family are jailed for the cardinal sin of using a tripod to get a family picture.
Stupid…and built to stay that way….