Back to All Press Release

City Agrees To Reopen Debate On Film Permit Regulations

Following a request from the NYCLU, New York City has agreed to reopen the period for members of the public to submit comments about a controversial new city proposal that would require formal permits for a wide range of casual photography. On Friday the City informed the NYCLU that it now will accept comments until Friday August 3.

In comments filed on June 26, which was the last day of the original comment period, the NYCLU had called on the City to abandon a proposal to require permits and insurance for any group of two or more people using a handheld camera in one location for more than thirty minutes. The NYCLU also challenged a proposed rule that would require small groups to obtain a permit and insurance to use a single tripod for more than ten minutes.

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. After receiving many complaints about the proposed rules, the NYCLU asked the City to reopen the comment period.

“We’re pleased that the city has decided to reopen the debate on its proposed restrictions on public photography, and we hope that that debate will lead the city to reconsider its proposal,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “The current proposal still inappropriately interferes with the rights of photographers to take pictures or film on the streets of New York City without blocking pedestrian traffic, and the Civil Liberties Union has received numerous complaints from individuals who would be negatively affected by it.”

Until recently, New York City had no written rules governing the issuance of photography and film permits. After the NYCLU filed a federal lawsuit challenging the permit practices of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting, including its requirement that all photographers and film makers obtain permits and have proof of $1 million of insurance, the City agreed to adopt written rules and to narrow its permit scheme.

The new proposed rules, which the City quietly published the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, are a considerable improvement over the prior scheme because they generally exempt from the permit requirement individuals using hand-held cameras, exempt photography or filming at protests and demonstrations, and eliminate onerous insurance requirements. Nonetheless, they would sweep into the MOFTB permit scheme large numbers of people, particularly tourists, who congregate in public places throughout New York City — like Times Square, Rockefeller Center, or Ground Zero — and casually photograph or videotape. They also would reach the work of many amateur and professional photographers and filmmakers.

  • Click here to read the Fact Sheet on Film Permitting Scheme Comment Period (PDF)
  • Click here to read the City’s proposed rules (PDF)
  • Click here to read the NYCLU’s comments (PDF)
As bold as the spirit of New York, we are the NYCLU.
© 2024 New York
Civil Liberties Union