There’s a push in South Carolina by a couple of people to pass “Allison’s Law”. First, stop giving laws cutesy kid’s names. I don’t give a damn who Allison is or was, and whenever I hear one of these Kid Laws, I always picture some obese weepy woman on the news, which doesn’t do anything to gain my support.
Evidently Allison was a 16 year old girl that was killed in a car wreck in my state, along with her brother. Someone got to the wreck before the trooper, and took photos and posted them online. Mom got upset about it (understandably), and is pushing senators to pass some crazy legislation. Basically: You can’t post photos of minors as accident victims or crime victims online, without the parent’s permission.
This law caused a heated debate on Facebook, which is ordinarily known for its calm, educated, well thought out discussions.
A few things came out that need to be addressed:
1. Yes, you can be photographed in public. It doesn’t matter if you want to be or not. Your kids can be photographed in public. Even if you don’t like it. In fact, if I were so inclined I could set a camera on a tripod, get a zoom lens, and stand across the street from the elementary school and take pictures of kids if I wanted to, and there’s NO law against it. It’s creepy and weird, but not illegal.
2. Cops can’t demand you delete photos if they don’t like them. Cops can’t force you to show you the pictures. Cops can’t prevent you from taking photos. Yes, cops can get search warrants, but that’s for evidence. Yes, cops can close off accident scenes. But it doesn’t mean someone outside the scene can’t take photos. Even if you’re the first person there and take pictures, those pictures don’t necessarily constitute evidence – unless you change something. The cop can take the same picture and have the same record of the scene.
3. Cops don’t get to destroy phones. For those saying “I would hand the phone back in pieces”. That’s destruction of property, it’s illegal. Just because cops don’t like people taking pictures, doesn’t give them the right to destroy someone’s property, or even demand they delete it.
4. You can even sell the pictures you take of people in public. There are limits, for example, you can’t take a picture of a runner and say he’s endorsing a product… you need a model release. But you CAN take pictures of, say, a city sidewalk with people walking and eating at little outside tables, and sell it to a travel magazine or sell it as art. The first amendment does apply here, artistic expression is a form of speech. If people want to take pictures and publish them in any means, they have that right.
I’m not saying that what people do isn’t morally wrong and sick and twisted. That’s obvious. There have been crime scene shots on the internet for years. What is worrisome about this law is it is another example of people trying to use a single situation to step on other’s rights. Today: No photos of minors in accidents. Tomorrow, no photos of accidents. What about no photos of police doing their job? How many people would agree to that? No photos of celebrities without their permission? No photos of kids, anywhere, without parent’s permission? Can you imagine that? No need to take a camera on vacation. You could give up vacation photos pretty much anywhere.
I say the parents could sue the accident photographer for mental anguish. But passing a law saying “these pictures can’t be taken” is just scary. When you whittle away one for of expression, you open all kinds of doors. What about music that you find offensive? Artworks? Should we start banning certain other types of artistic expression and personal freedom? Soon the only people allowed to take photos will be the government, because those cameras will be everywhere.