UPDATE: Consumerist reader Bob, who tipped us off to the Ansel Adams bill in the first place, writes in to point out a bit of a glitch that could cause trouble already for the newborn bit of legislation.
As noted by a tipster to the blog The Online Photographer, Rep. Stockman’s last day in office was Jan. 3, the day after the bill’s introduction. Jan. 6 was the first day of the 114th Congress.
“So the bill either needs to be reintroduced by someone else in the new Congress or it’s already dead, since bills cannot be carried over from one Congress to the next prior to being signed into law,” the tipster writes.
If it is resubmitted by someone else, it will then be considered a new bill.
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A new bill dubbed the “Ansel Adams Act” introduced recently in Congress wants to make sure it’s just as legal to snap a photo of a federal building as it is to glance at one on the street. The bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas introduced on Jan. 2 is headed “To restore the First Amendment Rights of Photographers.”
Though it is already legal to take photos in public spaces owned by the feds, the bill says that in recent years, the federal government has put regulations into place that “prohibit or restrict photography in National Parks, public spaces, and of government buildings, law enforcement officers, and other government personnel carrying out their duties.”
It goes on to say that photographers on federal lands in spaces have had their equipment confiscated or been threatened as much, and sometimes threatened with arrest for” merely recording what the eye can see from public spaces.”
Even when there weren’t regulations saying to do so, the bill says federal law enforcement and others would seek to stop pictures from being taken or tell people they’d be arrested for trying.
Because the First Amendment of the United States Constitution says “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” and because still and moving images are speech, anyone threatening photographers or forcing them to pay hefty fees to get permits in order to take pictures is “abridging” their First Amendment rights.
The Ansel Adams Act says that it’s 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.”
If a federal agency wanted to ban photos, the bill says it’ll have to get a court order first explaining why, for national security or other reasons, it can’t have people taking pictures.
The bill seeks to ban fees, permits and insurance from being required before taking photographs on federal lands, National Parks and Forests, and public spaces, whether for private, media, or commercial use.
It also wants to make it illegal to seize and confiscate photographic equipment Including contents/memory cards/film) or order a photographer to erase any of that either.
The bill credits Ansel Adams and other natural photographers who “helped bring home to Americans the beauty and fragility of our natural resources,” citing Adams’ works as a tool to build public support for making Yosemite a National Park.
“Future ‘Ansel Adams’ must not have their paths blocked, regulated and made more expensive with fees and fines, or be threatened with arrest and seizure of their equipment,” the bill reads.