Ansel Adams Act proposal protects photo rights

Click image for legal text!

Click image for legal text!

US legal framework is generally different from the one described in Hungary’s PTK  (unfortunately most of my articles about the bill of civil rights are available only in Hungarian, but I will try to continue translating them into English as much as my capacities allow it). A new law proposal aims to even widen the protection granted to photography that faces more and more restrictions in the US as well.

US legal system has some times very different thinking from the one in Hungary or most parts of Europe. It is also true to the intentions behind lawmaking. While Europe and Hungarian law especially emphasize the protection of the privacy rights the US has a much wider approach to the regulations of photographing in public places. Their constitution granted everyone the freedom of speech and self-expression that includes photography as well. This means also that anyone can photograph anything and anyone in public.

On the other hand, as LSR Lounge and many other sites often write about, it there are more and more restrictions to this freedom of photography around the country. Even if there is no real legal reason civilians, as well as police officers, happen to try restricting or even banning photography or video recording and some times they even try to confiscate gear in this attempt.

As PetaPixel wrote the legal proposal named after famous US nature photographer “Ansel Adams act” aims to write into las the freedom of photography. Of course, this is only a popular nickname for this initiative. Officially it is called “H. R. 5893 To restore the First Amendment Rights of Photographers”. The aim is to have a law with a text clearly stating to everyone that photography is an equal part of the freedom of speech that cannot be restricted by anyone in public property.

Az Amerikai Egyesült Államok alkotmányának első kiegészítése foglalkozik a szólásszabadsággal (kiemelés az új törvényjavaslat indoklása alapján):

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

All other regulations in regards of photography derive from this very basic concept of freedom of speech and press. Conservative Texan senator Steve Stockman feels it is time to make regulations about photography clear as things aren’t headed the right way in the US in this reagard.

Meanwhile in Hungary
We have almost as much debate about photography in Hungary as in the US. At least danger of terrorism is less often used as an argument. Protection of privacy rights, however, is a much more common reason. The new PTK civil law reinforced the decades-old practice to require the permissions of persons being photographed – and since media blew it up (connected articles are unfortunately available only in English) even those object to being photographed because they have the right to do so whom I don’t even want to photograph.

H. R. 5893 To restore the First Amendment Rights of Photographers

January 2, 2015
Mr. Stockman introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and in addition to the Committees on Natural Resources, Agriculture, and the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

To restore the First Amendment Rights of Photographers.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “Ansel Adams Act”.

Congress finds as follows:
(1) In recent years, the Federal Government has enacted regulations to prohibit or restrict photography in National Parks, public spaces, and of government buildings, law enforcement officers, and other government personnel carrying out their duties.

(2) In recent years, photographers on Federal lands and spaces have been threatened with seizure and forfeiture of photographic equipment and memory cards, and have been arrested or threatened with arrest for merely recording what the eye can see from public spaces.

(3) Even in the absence of laws or regulations, Federal law enforcement officers, other government personnel, and private contractors have been instructed to prohibit photography from public spaces, and threatened photographers with arrest or seizure of photographic equipment.

(4) Arresting photographers, seizing photographic equipment, and requirements to obtain permits, pay fees, or buy insurance policies are abridgments of freedom of speech and of the press.

(5) The First Amendment of the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”.

(6) Still and motion photographs are speech.

(7) The photography by Ansel Adams and other famous photographers helped bring home to Americans the beauty and fragility of our natural resources.

(8) Ansel Adams’ photographs helped build public support to make Yosemite into a National Park.

(9) 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.


(a) In General.—It is 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.

(b) Should a Federal agency seek to restrict photography of its installations or personnel, it shall obtain a court order that outlines the national security or other reasons for the restriction. Such court order shall allow restrictions of photography when such photography may lead to the endangerment of public safety or national security. Nothing in this Act shall restrict Federal agencies from taking lawful steps to ascertain whether or not photography may consist of reconnaissance for the purpose of endangerment of public safety or national security or for other unlawful activity. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to repeal, invalidate, or supersede section 795 of title 18, United States Code.

(c) Prohibition On Fees, Permits, Or Insurance.—No Federal Government agency shall require fees, permits or insurance as a condition to take still or moving images on Federal lands, National Parks and Forests, and public spaces, whether for private, media, or commercial use.

(d) Prohibition On The Seizure And Forfeiture Of Photographic Equipment.—Federal law enforcement officers or private contractors shall not seize any photographic equipment or their contents or memory cards or film, and shall not order a photographer to erase the contents of a camera or memory card or film.


“Photography” means any form or method of capturing and recording or transmitting still or moving images.

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