If you've ever tried to set up a tripod in New York City, you know that it can be difficult enough just avoiding all the people. Then, if a police officer spots you, you also have to explain why you've set it up, which can lead to the officer telling you that you need a permit. Now, the city is planning to modify its photo and video permit rules in ways that has alarmed many local photographers and videographers. An brief announcement by the city outlines some of the changes, though a PDF of the full notice explains the new rules in further detail.
On the surface, the new rules might seem benign, since it makes sense to require permits for large professional productions, which typically involve many people, vehicles, and the potential for very large equipment. However, with the rise of photo and video sharing sites, such as Flickr, Webshots, and YouTube, many more non-pros have been embarking on more elaborate projects, which could easily put them at odds with the proposed regulations. The new rules require permits for any shoot that includes two people or more for a period of longer than 30 minutes and restrict tripod use to 10 minutes, including set up and break down times. I don't know about you, but for a complicated shot, it can take me 10 minutes just to set up my camera on a tripod. Also, just to get a permit, you need to have insurance, which adds to the cost of some already expensive hobbies, and effectively limits the freedom of expression of all New Yorkers and anyone who visits the city.
A group called Picture New York will be hosting a rally at 6:30 tonight in New York's Union Square park to bring attention to the issue and has an online petition you can sign to speak out against the new regulations. They are also encouraging people to make video responses like this one and post them on You Tube. They'll then take those responses and deliver them to the mayor's office.
After September 11, 2001, New York City authorities began more rigorous enforcement of laws restricting photography and video, most notably around and on bridges. The MTA also tried to ban photography from New York City subways, but public protest made them reverse that decision. Hopefully, the mayor's office will listen to the reaction against the proposed regulations. If not, then an era of independent film making and photography in New York may come to a close.