July 15, 2008

NYC Adopts Improved Photo Permit Rules

The New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting (MOFTB) has just issued its final set of rules governing when permits are needed to take pictures in public property. These rules were the subject of much debate last summer, when they were first proposed and then quickly withdrawn and revised.

The rules have improved with each revision. The ones issued today appear to be the the fairest and most photographer-friendly of the whole process.

If you love to read these things in detail, click here to read the 12-page rule notice.

Or you can read the summary in an MOFTB press release.

"Under the adopted rules, a permit would be required for filming if equipment or vehicles, as defined in the rule, are used or if the person filming asserts exclusive use of City property. Equipment does not include hand-held devices (such as hand-held film, still, or television cameras or videocameras) or tripods used to support such cameras, but a permit would be required in certain situations when the person filming asserts exclusive use of City property while using a hand-held device."

As a reminder, permits are already required for this kind of thing in New York and most other cities. The problem was that the rules had evolved over time and nothing formal was on the books. Permits are free but require you to carry $1 million of liability insurance, though it is possible to apply for a waiver in cases of hardship. Students should be covered by their schools.

So when can you get away without having a permit?

"A permit is not required for filming that uses hand-held cameras or tripods and does not assert exclusive use of City property. Standing on a street, walkway of a bridge, sidewalk, or other pedestrian passageway while using a hand-held device and not otherwise asserting exclusive use of City property is not an activity that requires a permit. In addition, activity that involves the filming of a parade, rally, protest or demonstration does not require a permit except when equipment or vehicles are used. The rules also provide that press photographers, who are credentialed by the New York Police Department (NYPD) do not need to obtain a MOFTB permit."

Looks good on paper. Let's see if it holds up out in the streets.

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