Photography is not a Crime

April 22, 2010, 4:06 PM
Suit Filed to Allow Photography Near U.S. Buildings

Antonio Musumerci

Citizens should be allowed to take photos while standing in public spaces near federal buildings, according to a lawsuit filed on Thursday by the New York Civil Liberties Union. The lawsuit challenges regulations that prohibit photography on federal property.

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, names the Department of Homeland Security along with the Federal Protective Service, an unnamed federal officer, and Inspector Clifford Barnes of the Federal Protective Service.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Antonio Musumeci, 29, a software developer from Edgewater, N.J.

According to the complaint (pdf), in November 2009, during Mr. Musumeci’s lunch break, he was filming Julian Heicklen, a libertarian advocate, while he protested outside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse in Manhattan.

Mr. Musumeci recorded while Mr. Heicklen distributed pamphlets, and he kept recording as Mr. Barnes approached the two. Mr. Musumeci stepped back about 10 feet to keep recording on his hand-held camera as Mr. Barnes arrested Mr. Heicklen.

Mr. Musumeci was also arrested, and Mr. Barnes and another officer confiscated his camera’s video card. He was later given a ticket for violating the regulation barring photography; the charge was dismissed in March.

The lawsuit seeks a court order to bar federal officials from harassing or arresting people taking photos while standing in outdoor public areas by federal buildings. “In our society, people have a clear right to use cameras in public places without being hassled and arrested by federal agents or police,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

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