Creepy Cameraman Emerges in Rhode Island Prompting Dumbfounded Responses from Lawyer, Journalists - PINAC News
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Creepy Cameraman Emerges in Rhode Island Prompting Dumbfounded Responses from Lawyer, Journalists

 

The Creepy Cameraman who calls himself Surveillance Camera Man has popped up in Rhode Island after unsettling numerous Seattle residents with his camera by doing nothing other than pointing it at them in public.

As we’ve seen with his previous videos, most of the Rhode Island residents he recorded took the same defensive posture when realizing he was recording them, demanding to know his intentions and even threatening him with physical violence.

Nobody, it seems, has ever thought of pulling out their own camera to record him, which would probably unsettle him because he is extremely secretive of his identity.

His actions drew the attention of a local news station, WJAR, who staggeringly did not know the laws regarding recording people in public.

So they turned to a local attorney, Stephen Linder, who also proved to be clueless, informing WJAR’s viewers that people have a right to privacy in public and therefore, have grounds to sue the Creepy Cameraman if he records them without their consent.

“Somebody walking along the street has the right to be free from unreasonable activity that causes them to get publicity,” Linder said.

And WJAR news reporter Tony Gugliotta took this statement at face value, failing to see the irony in how often news stations record people in public without first seeking their permission.

“So in Rhode Island, everybody has a reasonable right to their own privacy,” reported Gugliotta. “So if somebody takes out a phone or another camera and starts taking pictures or video of you, you have a legal right to say no.”

Even more ironic is the fact that both the attorney and the reporter proved what the Creepy Cameraman has been trying to prove all along; that we are under constant surveillance when we step out in public and not only is there nothing we can do about it, most of us don’t seem to mind it.

But when a citizen decides to pull out a camera and do the same, he is treated as a criminal with ulterior motives, prompting uneasy and sometimes violent reactions.

The Rhode Island statute that Linder is most likely referring to, which he interprets as providing people an expectation of privacy in public, contains the following provision, which indicates otherwise.

(A) It was an invasion of something that is entitled to be private or would be expected to be private;

One lawyer who does know the law regarding this subject is Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association, who happened to be in California this week leading panel discussions on this very subject.

This is what he wrote in an email after viewing the WJAR report:

I think this report does a major disservice to the public understanding of the right to privacy because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place. That is how the law distinguishes “public” from “private.”

By contrast in France one must obtain permission before photographing or recording someone even in public. But the last time I looked Rhode Island was in the US.

There are other laws that might be applicable such as the criminal offense of stalking in Rhode Island under § 11-59-1

Definitions. – For the purpose of this chapter:

(1) “Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, evidencing a continuity of purpose. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of “course of conduct.”

(2) “Harasses” means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person with the intent to seriously alarm, annoy, or bother the person, and which serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, or be in fear of bodily injury (emphasis added).

Or § 9-1-2.1 Civil liability for stalking. – (a) Any person who suffers harm pursuant to chapter 59 of title 11 may recover his or her damages in a civil action against the offender.

(b) As used in this section:

(1) “Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, evidencing a continuity of purpose. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of “course of conduct.”

(2) “Harasses” means following a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously alarms, annoys, or bothers the person, and which serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be of a kind that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, or be in fear of bodily injury (emphasis added),

But as you can read even these only apply to a continuing course of conduct not just on encounter and may not be applied to a constitutionally protected activity which we all know by now includes photography. This is not to say that what you do with those photos and recordings might not create a cause of action whereby one can be sued – such as holding someone up to false light or embarrassment but that is different from prohibiting the act of public photography itself.

Once again, anyone can sue anybody in this country for anything but that does not mean they will prevail. As far as being criminally charged – if someone called the police to complain about these activities by this person –it would depend on the officer who responded. One might tell the complainant that he had a right to do it, another might try to intimidate surveillance man into ceasing his recording, and another might arrest him and figure out what to charge him with later.

The unfortunate thing is that this report provides misinformation.

As you may know I am in CA where I moderated two panels – one in San Diego and one in LA on the Right to Photograph & Record in Public. The ACLU, police in both cities, a constitutional lawyer and photographers all agree.

 

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