As you’ll recall, a post I did on D.C.’s minor-but-arrestable criminal offenses led to attention on the fact that the city regulates street photography — a practice dating back to the bygone days when it was common for vendors to ply the sidewalks offering snapshots to tourists. But the regulations are broadly worded, leading some to question what business the city has regulating photography at all, which led to a commitment from the D.C. attorney general to review the regulations.
And now, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is proposing some clarifications.
Under the proposal, Section 562, the definition of street photography subject to regulation is now defined as “the business of operating on public space and taking photographs, for profit or gain, of any person or persons upon public space with the intent to immediately, or within a reasonably brief time, deliver the photograph to the purchaser.”
That is quite a bit more restrictive that the previous definition, “the business of taking photographs of any person or persons upon the streets, sidewalks, or other public spaces of the District of Columbia, for profit or gain” — a definition many thought could implicate photojournalists or other professional photographers.
Mickey H. Osterreicher, a lawyer for the National Press Photographers Association, said he was largely pleased that the definition of street photography has been updated, “but I think they’re still going to have some issues,” he said.
For instance, street photographers operating under the new regulations would be required to ensure their finish photos “shall be clear and sharp, and shall show no blur of focus or camera movement which affects the principal subject.”
That, Osterreicher said, would be an unnecessary impingement of artistic license. “I’ve seen great photography where they actually blur things and it looks great,” he said. “The way it’s written, it seems to be micromanaging unnecessarily.”
Before the new regulations go into effect, they stand to be revised after a public comment period and then must be voted on by the D.C. Council. Osterreicher said he intends to submit a comment to the city explaining his objections.