Public Photogs May Need Permits, Insurance on NY Streets

Steve Javors
NEW YORK — Aspiring filmmakers, amateur photographers and even tourists take heed — you might need a city-issued permit and $1 million in liability insurance for shooting on New York public property.

New rules put forth by the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any camera or film crew of two or more people to obtain a city permit and insurance if they intend to shoot at a public location for more than half an hour. The same restrictions would apply to a production crew of five people or more using a tripod in public for more than 10 minutes.

While the proposed rules are not intended to apply to tourists or amateur filmmakers and photographers according to the city's film office, language in the bill could ensnare them, too.

“These rules will apply to a huge range of casual photography and filming, including tourists taking snapshots and people making short videos for YouTube,” Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union, told the New York Times. Dunn said that the new rules could apply in places like Times Square, Rockefeller Center and Ground Zero, locations “where people routinely congregate for more than half an hour and photograph or film.”

“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,” Julianne Cho, assistant commissioner of the film office, told the Times.

The Mayor's film office held a public meeting June 28 on the proposed rules, but no one attended. Cho said that her office would publish a final version of the rules by the end of July, and would go into effect a month later.

The ACLU argues that the proposal's broad language would give the police too much discretion in enforcing it.

“Your everyday person out there with a camcorder is never going to know about the rules,” Dunn told the Times. “It completely opens the door to discriminatory enforcement of the permit requirements, and that is of enormous concern to us because the people who are going to get pointed out are the people who have dark skin or who are shooting in certain locations.”