Felony Photography

By guest blogger Michael Albany

In the past few months there has been legislation introduced in a number of states that will virtually outlaw photography. The first bill that I learned about is New Hampshire HB 619-FN that states, “This bill prohibits images of a person’s residence to be taken from the air by a satellite, drone, or any device not supported by the ground.” Here is the bill as introduced. Although there are few photography enthusiasts that do any type of aerial photography, there are a number of professionals that make their living in just this manner.

FelonyPhotoThis particular bill raised quite the stir in a number of professional forums. The former president of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) Jim Cavanaugh wrote directly to Representative Kurk of the New Hampshire State House stating how this bill would, “prevent many businesses from obtaining aerial photographs that they routinely use in their businesses. This may be construction documentation, road planning, news gathering, urban planning, images for companies’ marketing use, crowd estimation, environmental documentation, airport planning, wetland conservation, tourism and many others.”

In this case the representative agreed to edit his proposal in a way that would be more specific and less far reaching. That is democracy in action and is a great compromise. The problem is that it isn’t the only legislation being introduced.

Yesterday I was reading my local news source and came across new legislation proposed in Pennsylvania that would make photographing a farm a felony offense. A felony!? Really? State House Representative Haluska (R-Cambria County) put forth a proposal that would make it a felony to take photos or record video or audio. I’m sorry but for me, this is just a bit of overkill and a true example of overlegislation.

In New Hampshire the bill proposed had limited scope in that it would most likely only effect professionals. Rep. Haluska’s proposal would affect enthusiasts, real estate photographers, nature photographers, aerial photographers, and just about anyone that wanted to just capture an image of a beautiful landscape. The effect on tourism alone could be devastating!

Haluska stated that the idea for his proposal came from farmers in his district who are afraid of people trying to photograph or record farm operations and show them in a less than flattering way. He was quoted on NewsWorks.org (full article) as saying, “Sometimes you can take some things out of context, if you have a sick animal or something or if you have to (kill) an animal, which is just a normal part of doing business in the farming community, and sometimes it gets trumped up.”

To me making photographing a farm a felony is a bit extreme and an overreaction. Do we really have a large enough group of farmers that are doing their jobs, having their business interrupted by some type of activists photographing daily farm processes?

Keep an eye open in your state and make sure that legislation against photography isn’t pending. If you don’t you may be hearing the click of hand cuffs right after the click of that shutter.

We are curious how you feel about this Felony Photography issue that popped out of nowhere. Let us know.

Michael Albany is a Portrait and Architectural from Philadelphia. You can read more of his articles on his website www.michaelalbany.com.


  1. Jon Streeter says:

    This is a battle that will never be over. I heard a seminar speaker talk about how obtaining a release for a photograph of a house would not protect the photographer after the house changes ownership. I also read that a woman who thought she was the nurse in Eisenstadt's famous VE-Day photograph was suing him for invasion of privacy 50 years after the photograph was first published. It's like the old saying, "Where there's a will, there's a relative." If you've got pockets, sooner or later somebody besides you will have his hands in them.

  2. With the shear bulk of photographic devices,in the hands of the public. Not to mention the amount of self proclaimed pro photographers, and then the real professional photographers.
    I think that a corporation, that owns a farm that intends to do things outside the scope of what we the people think they should be allowed to do. Should already be under scrutiny/observation.
    I think that any person named on the production of a law that is solely to benefit a single corporation and or a group of corporations involved in a single field such as agriculture. should be executed, for the crime of swindling the people. If a farmer or group of farmers are so afraid of being "caught" on "film" , then build a blind. Or shin a very bright light at the so called perpetrators.The writing of a law that is designed to set precedence, and over flood the court system should be if it is not already against the law.
    Why is it that in a country that touts it self as a "free" country are it's politicians called law makers?

  3. We had something not quite as bad, but still quite annoying localling in St. Louis County, MO, which tried to require a fairly expensive license for professional photographers using County parks as well as requiring $1M liability insurance specifically naming the county as an insured in the policy if you shoot in a county park. Due to the backlash, they are reconsidering & have taken down the signs promulgating this new regulation. However, note well that the instigation for this new regulation came because of a stupid photographer who marked up some old restored county building as part of a shoot he was doing. The county not only had to pay to clean it off, but the cleaning process neccessarily removed the patina on the old wood. Wake up photographers & don't be idiots and abuse your locations or you may become the cause of this type of stupid legislation.

  4. Lambert Fick says:

    Most likely there is no criminal intent by photographers, but one`s work can, could or will be used by a third party for criminal purposes.

  5. Allen Moore says:

    This bill is a good example of the legislator contracting foot-in-mouth disease. Yes, there are a few commercial satellite operators, but the vast majority of those operations are run by the federal government. Does New Hampshire propose to convict the feds of a felony?

    Civil Air Patrol (U.S. Air Force Auxiliary) conducts aerial photography missions for damage assessment and disaster relief (our missions after Hurricane Sandy are an example). Should we expect our federally-issued aerial sectional charts to now show a blue line around the entire state of New Hampshire indicating a prohibited no-fly zone?

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