Galvanized by the countless stories of abuse that made a site called Photography Is Not A Crime necessary, U.S. Representative Steve Stockman introduced the Ansel Adams Act to Congress last week to reiterate photographer’s rights.
Stockman, a representative from Texas, is leaving Congress and perhaps wanted to do some good on his way out the door.
The bill, mostly a legal redundancy due to the well-established case law providing for the First Amendment right to photography in public spaces, did not move forward in Congress before it’s January 3 expiration date, but did propose a few novel concepts.
From the bill:
(a) In General.–It is contrary to the public policy of the United States to prohibit or restrict photography in public spaces, whether for private, news media, or commercial use.
(b) Should a Federal agency seek to restrict photography of its installations or personnel, it shall obtain a court order that outlines the national security or other reasons for the restriction…
(c) Prohibition on Fees, Permits, or Insurance.–No Federal Government agency shall require fees, permits or insurance as a condition to take still or moving images on Federal lands, National Parks and Forests, and public spaces, whether for private, media, or commercial use.
While well-intentioned, the bill was unnecessary as far as legalizing photography, because, of course, Photography Is Not A Crime!
In fact, the bill may have accomplished the opposite of its intention by providing a legal framework for Federal agencies to seek photography restrictions via section (b).
Nonetheless, kudos to Congressman Stockman for recognizing the rights of photographers in the way he knew best, and for proposing to end the restrictions and fees on photography in National Parks and Forests. The act is named in acknowledgment of Ansel Adams, who generated public support for Yosemite National Park’s incorporation into the National Park System through his photography.
The Ansel Adams Act may be left on the House floor today, but a new and improved edition may just find its way out of Congress.