photos and/or movies of strangers legal?

In Southern Cal and perhaps the entire state, 3 huge supermarket chains are being picketed currently. Numerous people attempting to cross the picket lines have been verbally harassed.

My question is: Is it legal to take movies and/or photographs of anyone in public areas without his/her permission?

If there is physical contact in an effort to forcefully divert the camera away from the intended photograph…is it illegal to do so?


If the picture/film depicts the subject in a newsworthy event, or the subject is considered to be a public figure, then no permission is required to display said picture/film. If the event is less than newsworthy, or the subject is NOT a public figure, then a valid release is required.


There is also the aspect of use of the image. For your private use, almost anything in public view can be photographed. For commercial use, you would need permission. However, if you misrepresent the image in any way you would be subject to libel.

As far as allowing someone to photograph in public: If you threaten them it is assault. If you physically prevent them, it is battery.

The issue of whether a commercial property (a store parking lot) is public has been hotly debated in the courts.

More specifcally, there have been complaints of pickets blocking the pathways into the supermarkets and yelling threats to those who cross the picket lines. If one records these episodes and gives them to the network news to utilize on their new programs without remuneration, is the photographer liable in any way?

As Olive pointed out, that would be considered a newsworthy event and no release would be needed.

Usually, you can take photographs of what people are doing in public places. What is and is not a public place can get a little tricky. The property owner, though, not the person being photographed, is the one who can make the claim.

the answer is yes, otherwise film of a baseball game would be difficult and require careful camerawork to avoid the fans.

“My question is: Is it legal to take movies and/or photographs of anyone in public areas without his/her permission?”

What do you think the cops would do if someone takes photos of naked children or minors on the beach or minor surfers changing their wetsuits?

I think that’s a special case owlofcreamcheese because of the disclaimer on the back of each ticket. The tickets usually say that by accepting it you give permission for MLB to use your image along with the usual bits about not holding them liable if a broken bat crushes a good portion of your facial structure.*
*I know a guy this happened to at a Diamondbacks game.

It doesn’t have to be a newsworthy event or a public figure for the photo to be legal, whether it’s for publication or not, as long as the photo is taken in a public place under normal circumstances.

A few things can complicate this, however: one, if the photo puts the person in a “false light,” whether through the subjective nature of the photograph or an inappropriate caption, the photographer and publication can be successfully sued for libel.
Secondly, a minor’s privacy is generally more protected than that of adults; most if not all professional photographers get releases for minors even if they don’t for all their subjects.
Thirdly, several states have recently passed laws making secretive phototaking for the purposes of “sexual gratification” illegal. This covers the guys taking photos of kids on the beach and people with mini digital cameras taking photos up girls’ skirts.