This is a video from Texas. Two young men wanted to shoot some video outside of a Wal-Mart. In the parking lot. This is what happened:
It is unclear if it was a mall security guard or an off-duty police officer. If you want more details, The Raw Story has a write up.
I am not a lawyer. I do not want to be a lawyer. The following information is presented for informational, self-defense and educational purposes., You need to find out the laws in your own community or country. I live in the United States so that is my focus. I’ll list my sources so that you can decide for yourself.
Standing on a Public Street
You have the right to record on a public street. You have the right to record a building on private property that is clearly visible from a public street.
Standing on Publicly Accessible Private Property (parking lots, malls, stores, walkways)
Gets a little dicey but not impossible. Once you have crossed from a public space into private property you generally need permission to record. If you don’t see any signs that say you can’t record I’d say go for it. My understanding is that it doesn’t necessarily mean you have permission. It just means you haven’t been told you absolutely can’t record.
Andrew Kantor in a PDF on Photographer’s Rights also states that if the private property is open to the public such as a mall or office building then you have the right to record. He is a reporter/photographer so he might know a thing or two about the subject.
Recording the Exterior of a Building on Private Property
I had this experience a few years ago where I was recoding in an alley of a parking lot. I was stopped by a security guard that said the building was copyrighted and I couldn’t record in the alley of the building.
If a representative, i.e. a security guard, ask you to stop recording you will have to make a decision. They cannot ask for your camera. They cannot ask you to delete what you have recorded.
Well, they can ask but you don’t have to do it.
They can ask you to leave. So, if the representative states that you are trespassing and you are asked to leave the property then you should probably leave. If you feel that you have a compelling reason that is higher than the owner’s rights then you need to be prepared to be arrested.
A Second Look At the Video
We that now have the basic areas of rights and considerations let’s take another look at the video.
You have two guys in a Wal-Mart parking lot taking video of the sign and the shopping carts. Since I don’t know the status of authorized agent let’s call him Uniform Guy.
00:06 Uniform Guy: Inaudible but something to the effect of don’t record me.
00:07 Guys: Can’t do video?
00:08 Uniform Guy: Not of me
00:10 Guys: …we are recording the sign, not of you, we promise.
Uniform Guy could have said there is no recording or you are are trespassing. He did not. Uniform Guy just said do not record him. That is his right. The young men re-stated that no, we are recording the sign and promised not to record him.
They resume recording and aim the recorder at the parking lot. They are facing the parking lot, not Uniform Guy. Uniform Guy interrupts them.
00:24 Uniform Guy: Let me see your ID.
00:26 Guys: Nobody has to show you ID Sir.
Again Uniform Guy could have said you no longer have the right to be on Wal-Mart property. He did not do that. He asked for identification. The young men were respectful but knew they didn’t have to show identification cards for recording a parking lot.
00:32 Uniform Guy: Grabs one of the young men. The young man backs away. Uniform Guy pulls out a Taser.
Uniform Guy puts his hands on the body of one of the young men. Uniform Guy escalated the event way beyond where it needed to go. The young man pulls away (and I would too if I thought I was in the neighborhood of getting an electric shock.)
The second young man briefly touched Uniform Guy. I understand how it happened but to the extent possible don’t touch or get to close to men in uniform who have a gun or a Taser. The guy was already freaking out and this didn’t help.
I just want to deal with the video recording and private property aspect of this on this blog. There is volumes more to say about what is happening but I have other places for those concerns.
What The Guys Did Right
- They were respectful to Uniform Guy.
- The Constitution covers freedom of expression. I’m gonna give them that one. Knowing your rights is one thing. Invoking the Constitution when a man has a Taser is another thing.
- At 1:00 into the video when Uniform Guy tried to grab the the recording device the young men said that they were leaving. Uniform Guy will not let them leave.
Know The Facts and Your Rights
Be aware of your local laws and your rights.
Know the difference between public and private property. Look around to see if there is a sign or sticker that tells you if you can record or not.
Even if there is a sign that says you can’t record there may be a situation where you are recording an accident, a crime or developing situation that needs to be recorded. You will have to judge for yourself if it worth the risk of continuing to record.
If you have a representative of the owner tell you to leave because you are trespassing and it isn’t one of the above situations then you should probably go.There is no greater pain in the ass than a riled up security guard intent on making you know who is boss.
I once saw one a security guard pull gun on people standing in line for a movie because he felt disrespected they were not lining up they way that he felt they should have.
It isn’t worth the risk of getting shot or killed by an authority junkie hopped up on what little power he or she thinks they have. A Taser in the hands of someone really afraid in a uniform is never a good thing.
- American Civil Liberties Union page on Know Your Rights: Photographers.
- Andrew Kantor’s Legal Rights of Photographers PDF
- Burt Krages The Photographer’s Rights – A PDF summery of the rights of photographers and those aiming a recording device. He also has a book that goes into more details about photography and the law.
- Excerpt from The Law In Plain English for Photographers by Skyhorse Publishing, access via Google Books.