As with any recording media, owners of video cameras must be aware of local, state, and national laws pertaining to photographing or videotaping. Laws that are present may vary from one jurisdiction to the next, and may be stricter in some places and more lenient in others, so it is important to know the laws present in one’s location. Typical laws in the United States are as follows:
- It is generally legal to photograph or videotape anything and anyone on any public property, with some exceptions.
- Filming of private property from within the public domain is legal, with the exception of an area that is generally regarded as private, such as a bedroom, bathroom, or hotel room. (For example, you may take a picture of the exterior of a house from the street, but not the bedroom with the open curtain).
- Many places now have laws prohibiting filming private areas under a person’s clothing without that person’s permission. This also applies to any filming of another within a public restroom or locker room. Some jurisdictions have completely banned the use of a camera phone within a restroom or locker room in order to prevent this. It is expected that all 50 states will eventually have laws pertaining to surreptitiously filming a person’s private areas.
- Filming of high-profile structures, such as airports, railroads, bridges, tunnels, or certain landmarks may be banned. Additionally, taking a photograph while on an airplane is banned in many places, and many mass transit systems prohibit taking photographs or videos while on board buses or trains or inside of stations. Photography and videography are also prohibited in the U.S. Capitol, in courthouses, and in government buildings housing classified information. Bringing a camera phone into one of these buildings is not permitted either.
- Filming while on private property follows many restrictions. The owner of the property is permitted to film their own property. However, they must receive permission from others on the property to be allowed to film that person.
- In order to film someone else’s property, permission must be received from the owner.
- Photographing or videotaping a tourist attraction, whether publicly or privately owned, is generally considered legal, unless explicitly prohibited by posted signs.
- Photographing of privately-owned property that is generally open to the public (i.e. retail) is permitted unless explicitly prohibited by posted signs.
- Some jurisdictions have laws regarding filming while in a hospital or health care facility. Where permitted, such filming may be useful in gathering evidence in cases of abuse, neglect, or malpractice.
- One must not to hinder the operations of law enforcement, medical, emergency, or security personnel by filming, and must always obey a law enforcement officer when instructed not to film.
- Any filming with the intent of doing unlawful harm against a subject may be a violation of the law in itself.
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