I don’t know why this was ever even an issue, since taking a picture of anything while in public should always be recognized as a fundamental right upheld by the First Amendment. There are some exceptions, child pornography, voyeurism, or harassing someone while taking their picture are all clearly crimes, because they have unambiguous victims. Yet, as this article points out, taking pictures or video of Federal buildings is very likely to get you harassed or arrested by the NYPD for doing just that, despite it being a perfectly legal and constitutionally protected activity.
According to The New York Times,
The right of photographers to stand in a public place and take pictures of federal buildings has been upheld by a legal settlement reached in New York.
In the ever-escalating skirmishes between photographers and security agencies, the most significant battlefield is probably the public way — streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas — which has customarily been regarded as a vantage from which photography cannot and should not be barred.
Under the settlement, announced Monday by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Federal Protective Service said that it would inform its officers and employees in writing of the “public’s general right to photograph the exterior of federal courthouses from publicly accessible spaces” and remind them that “there are currently no general security regulations prohibiting exterior photography by individuals from publicly accessible spaces, absent a written local rule, regulation or order.”
The settlement, filed on Friday, ended alawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security by Antonio Musumeci, 29, of Edgewater, N.J. He was arrested Nov. 9, 2009, as he videotaped a demonstrator in front of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse at 500 Pearl Street. His principal camera was confiscated but he recorded the encounter on a second camera. On two later occasions, he was also threatened with arrest.
The protective service, which guards buildings and properties that are owned by or leased to the federal government, is part of the homeland security agency.
“This settlement secures the public’s First Amendment right to use cameras in public spaces without being harassed,” said a statement issued by Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which represented Mr. Musumeci in Federal District Court.
Read the full article here.