New York Filmmakers Fighting New Permit Laws

Prior to Memorial Day weekend, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting introduced rule changes that would require a group of two or more people using a camera in a public location for more than half an hour to get a permit and secure $1 million in liability insurance. Aside from ruining hundreds of Flickr accounts, “these regulations violate the First Amendment right to photograph and public places,” according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. In response, a group of filmmakers authored an online petition to fight the changes. They are delivering it today, but you’ve still got an hour or so to electronically pen your name, show your support, and stick it to the man — the perfect end to a long work week.

The full petition:

To: Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting

cc: City Council Committee on Culture, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations

We, the undersigned, believe that the new rules currently under consideration for Film Permits (Chapter 9, Title 43 of the City Rules of New York) will have an irrevocable impact on independent filmmakers and photographers and their ability to engage in creative work in New York.

The proposed regulations would not only jeopardize the activities of artists, but of hobbyists and tourists, as well as commercial practitioners. Furthermore, we believe these new restrictions will have far reaching impact on the tourism industry and cultural economy of New York. With limitations placed on the kind of work that can be made, the commercial galleries, museums, and theaters that present the work, as well the film processing labs and rental companies that service the production of such work would lose considerable business.

The right to photograph in public space is established by the First Amendment, which states that, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” These rights are not the City’s possession to take away, or to restrict to the point where such free expression is rendered impossible. The impact on public space of the types of activities you propose to regulate are so minimal that requiring permits is an undue burden towards exercising First Amendment rights. Furthermore, one cannot regulate an art form or activity by negating its very premise. The proposed rules, in refusing to recognize the spontaneity that is at the core of street-based filmmaking and photography, are untenable for that reason alone.

Because there was virtually no public notice about the proposals, many advocacy groups, photographers, and filmmakers did not know about the rules or the opportunity to file objections. We therefore call upon the city to dismiss these regulations altogether, and hold a new public hearing so that the communities that will be most impacted have an opportunitiy to meaningfully input into the shaping of new and constructive policies.

The Undersigned