In a city where security concerns often seem to trump civil liberties, the New York Civil Liberties Union has scored a decisive victory for camera-toting shutterbugs sick of being told they need permission to shoot. Under a settlement released yesterday, filmmakers and photographers using hand-held equipment will no longer be required to obtain filming permits. The city has also agreed for the first time to create a set of written rules that will govern the issuance of permits for filmmakers and photographers.
The settlement comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the NYCLU in January on behalf of award-winning Indian documentary filmmaker Rakesh Sharma, who was detained by police in May of 2005 for using a handheld video camera on a midtown sidewalk. Evidently, police thought Sharma looked as though he was planning a terrorist attack.
“Over the last several years we have received numerous complaints about the mistreatment of film makers and photographers,” NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn said. “The adoption of these new rules is an important reform, but we will continue our efforts to protect the rights of photographers.” The rest of us, on the other hand, better watch our backs.