Bamboo

Street Photography Dealt Heavy Blow in Arkansas

It is still legal to take a shot of bamboo in Arkansas. Indeed my favorite subjects of machines, animals and flowers are all safe from the new law passed that will put the art of a street photographer in serious potential danger. The new SB-79, or the Personal Rights Protection Act. This law will require a photographer standing on the street in a public place to get a legal binding document from every person they photograph.

 

In most areas of photography this model release form is nothing new. Indeed, professional photographers will carry this kind of form with them when they go on shoots.   Up till now though it has not been necessary to worry about whether a photographer needs to have such a form filled out by every person photographed in a shot when that person is on a public piece of land.

 

However, The art of street photography specializes in the photography of the cultural side of people. This photographer specializes in capturing the culture and day-to-day activities of the subjects he captures. They show both the good and bad of every city and the colorful people who live there. So it’s immediately possible to see a potential conflict of interest.

 

The rules have been pretty clear-cut. When a person goes to the park and runs around with a dog chasing a Frisbee, That person is in a public area. The expectation to a right of privacy is pretty much forfeit. People can take pictures with you in them because you are in public. On a side note, it doesn’t entitle the photographer to act like an irresponsible jerk about his right to take the picture. The rule of “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” applies here. If however, a photographer has to climb a privacy fence to grab the shot of you sunbathing in your backyard, well, it’s called a privacy fence for a reason. See? It’s some of the clearest legal mud you can find.

 

However, this new bill seeks to change that. In order to provide a thicker murkier mud, It basically allows for litigation against the commercial photographer if the person being photographed does not sign a release form giving permission.

 

So, very soon if you are taking a picture in Arkansas you may want to sell, you have to make sure that no person is in your picture without the release. But it’s not that simple. Remember a person in the law means:

 

SB 79 Statute : 4-75-1003.

(4)(A-B) “Person” means an individual or entity. A partnership, a corporation, a company, an association, or any other business entity; a not-for-profit corporation or association; an educational or religious institution; a political party; and a community, civic, or other organization;

 

Again, while most photographers use these release forms to cover themselves from any possible legal issues anyway, one would not think this is too big of a deal. But that is not the fear. The fear behind this law is that it is just not always feasible for a photographer to determine whether a person actually needs to be processed as a model or not. After all as with everything there are always exceptions to the new rules. In this case more than 2 pages of the 9-page bill are exceptions.

 

Could you imagine running a photography business where you would have to literally have a group of litigation lawyers with you everyday to determine whether taking a particular shot would actually fall under the category of legal or not? With every possible click of the camera shutter having the potential for wiping out your business? Would you risk it?

 

As is usual, the solving of one problem definitely leads to others. Street photographers might not want to visit Arkansas anymore. It’s too risky. This means no more pictures and thereby no promotion of true Arkansas beauty or the people and their culture. Could this lose valuable tourist dollars? No one knows. But hey, at least now they don’t have to worry about what they look like at Wal-Mart.

 

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