The New York Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting is considering new rules that would require any group of 2 or more people who want to use a camera on city property -- including sidewalks -- for more than a half hour to get a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance, the New York Times reports today:
New rules being considered by the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and insurance. The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment.
According to Julianne Cho, assistant commissioner of the film office, the rules are not intended to apply to families on vacation or amateur filmmakers or photographers. The ACLU, which was the only organization to submit written comments in response to the proposed rules, is skeptical, telling the Times:
"These rules will apply to a huge range of casual photography and filming, including tourists taking snapshots and people making short videos for YouTube," said Christopher Dunn, the group's associate legal director. . . . "Your everyday person out there with a camcorder is never going to know about the rules," Mr. Dunn said. "It completely opens the door to discriminatory enforcement of the permit requirements, and that is of enormous concern to us because the people who are going to get pointed out are the people who have dark skin or who are shooting in certain locations."
In fact, as the Times notes, the Mayor's Office is changing the rules at least in part due to its settlement with Rakesh Sharma, an Indian documentary filmmaker, who challenged the city's discriminatory enforcement of its permitting scheme. Sharma was arrested in 2005 for using a hand-held video camera in Midtown Manhattan and was told he needed a permit. During the litigation, however, it was revealed that the city had no written guidelines for issuing permits. As part of a settlement reached in April, the film office agreed to establish written rules for issuing permits, the Times reported.
Not surprisingly, the proposed rules do not appear to be available on the Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting's website. If you can find them, please put a link in the comments.
The city expects to publish a final version of the rules at the end of July.