A 1977 Law Restricts Atlanta Photographers

December 22, 2015 Law Research

The city of Atlanta has an old local law still in place that can be considered outdated and weird in this time period. The local law from 1977 made it illegal to photograph people on public sidewalks. Oddly, the law never resulted in any actual arrests or citations in its 38 years of existence. However, it did make an appearance recently after police reportedly cited the ordinance to prevent photographers from taking pictures on public sidewalks.

atlanta photographers fight back against old lawNPPA Helps Photographers

Since this ordinance came up, the  National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and local news organization wrote a letter to Mayor Kasim Reed about the issue.  According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, a number of complaints have arisen from local photographers, who  claim that officers are citing ordinances in an attempt to prevent them from photographing new movie sets.

 

The ordinance states in Section 30-1316,

“It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in the business of taking photographs, intended to be offered for sale, of persons on the streets and sidewalks of the city in front of any place of business other than the person’s own, unless the person shall have secured and have with such person at the time the written consent of the owner or manager of that place of business. The taking of photographs of persons on the streets in front of the place of business of another without the written consent of the other shall be deemed an offense under this section, whether or not a charge is made at the time of taking the photographs, if the photographs are taken for the purpose of sale.”

 

The reason why the NPPA is looking to have the ordinance repealed is because of its “broad and vague” language” that prevents journalists (and anyone with a camera) from taking photos on public streets. They state that this is a violation of the First Amendment, and public streets and sidewalks are traditional public spaces where the First Amendment can be exercised.

 

Since the complaints and flaws in the law have been brought to light, the city of Atlanta is now looking to repeal this 1977 law. The mayor’s office has promised that they will be introducing a new legislation to repeal the law, and make photography in public areas a free action without consequences.

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