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Improper Photography?

August 15, 2009

A friend posted a link to a story in West Texas where a guy was arrested under a fairly recent Texas statute (passed this decade) regarding “Indecent Photography”.

The article is here:  Man Charged with Secretly Photographing Women, Kids

My objections do not have to do with the speciifics of THAT case. So in fairness, you’ve been warned, and if anyone bothers to drop by and argue why that individual is really and truly a died in the wool pervert, I will suggest a remedial reading course for them. There are plenty of bad laws that CAN be put to good use… the problem is that if a law is witten in a way that it could be easily interpreted to be used to arrest people that are doing nothing wrong… it is a bad idea.

The law in question is as follows:

§ 21.15. IMPROPER PHOTOGRAPHY OR VISUAL RECORDING.
(a) In this section, “promote” has the meaning assigned by Section 43.21.
(b) A person commits an offense if the person:

  • (1) photographs or by videotape or other electronic means visually records another:
    • (A) without the other person’s consent; and
    • (B) with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person; or
  • (2) knowing the character and content of the photograph or recording, promotes a photograph or visual recording described by Subdivision (1).

(c) An offense under this section is a state jail felony.
(d) If conduct that constitutes an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under any other law, the actor may be prosecuted under this section or the other law.

Having read the statute he’s charged with and seen it misapplied by an officer in my own town (see http://dallas.org/node/88) … the law itself scares me more than any photographer. In the Southlake case the county prosecutor was smart enough to refuse to prosecute, but the Southlake Police spokesperson had already released the man’s name and town of residence and pretty much publicly branded him as a pervert for taking photographs at a public event.

dallas-cowboys-cheerleader

Try running onto the field at Cowboy stadium to get consent before taking a picture of one of the babes they put onto the field. [HINT: Won’t be easy, but it’ll be MUCH easier than taking a picture of their cheerleaders which *cant* be perceived as “arousing”.]

Seriously… the law includes photos taken “with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of ANY person.”

I don’t know how they can prove intent in this case, but I grew up in a good Baptist environment, and frankly at a certain age half the Sears catalog was “arousing”. All it would’ve required to put any guy I knew in jail would be for the picture to include a female, and it automatically fit this statute. Our high school yearbook photographer coulda been jailed for life.

HATE it when I agree with the ACLU, but the law is bad. If limited it to those in a position to expect privacy ( a dressing room or bathroom) I see use. Photographing someone in public wearing what they put on to go out should be ok.

There are those that’d argue the law is intended to combat pervs that’d take pictures serrupticiously in a bathroom or dressing room and publish them on the net. Well, a law that combats that is a great idea… this just isnt it. This could be interpreted to include any shot of a bikini clad girl at a beach.

[Note to self: Print up consent forms next time you go to Padre.]

Personally I find the majority of photos taken of me are embarrassing regardless of what I’m wearing, but that’s just because they tend to provide very graphic proof I’m not *really* still the same age as I act. There’s a little cognitive dissonance in play.

Still, pictures of people dressed in what they put on to go out in public have never been a problem before. My thought is if somebody can take a photo of you in public that’s worthy of a felony charge… you seriously oughta rethink your wardrobe choices.

I'm Rob Jones... and I approve this message.

I'm Rob Jones... and I approve this message.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2009 8:56 pm

    Hey Dude,
    I can agree with you, up until that last paragraph.
    There is a real problem with the “upskirt” type of photos, where a woman who is wearing a skirt (nothing wrong with that) is photographed in public from below. She’s not looking to have her, ahem, smile out there for all to see. But the photo is taken without her consent and she needs some type of protection from that. I agree with you that this law is retarded. But there still needs to be something to protect people out in public from getting taken advantage of.

    Like

  2. October 6, 2009 5:41 pm

    what a great site and informative posts, I will add a backlink and bookmark your site. Keep up the good work! :)

    Like

  3. January 3, 2010 12:23 am

    I see your point, Rob, and in this instance, I can sure agree with you. Zap makes a good point too, though. I think this is just another one of those poorly thought out laws, that were so broadly drafted as to leave them wide open to a whole slew of misinterpretations.

    Which of course, is NOT how laws are SUPPOSED to be written!
    Good post!

    Like

  4. January 3, 2010 1:01 pm

    Fwiw, Zap and I are actually required by law to disagree on virtually all social issues, and to have diametrically opposing solutions for the few we DO agree on. I’d appreciate it if you remembered not to EVER tell him you agree with him… it just encourages him.

    He’s a mod at V7 too… but only cause he owns the negatives from the Christmas party. You can also find him misbehaving at this place, http://www.btwimho.com/. Frankly we’d have kicked him outta there already except that he’s the owner/admin… which makes doing it a little tricky.

    Like

  5. January 3, 2010 1:23 pm

    Sorry about that, Rob. My daddy taught me to never tease the animals, so I’ll try to remember not to encourage Zap. I’ll drop by over at http://www.btwimho.com/ and see who I know.

    Should I get my shots up to date, first?

    Like

  6. January 17, 2010 4:22 pm

    Appreciated your comments on the “improper photography” law. There is a similar case in Webster, Texas, a town between Houston and Galveston. It is reported in the Galveston Country Daily News:

    http://galvestondailynews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=bef19813bce7702d

    I posted a comment and gave the location of this blog page.

    Like

  7. mad mama permalink
    May 5, 2010 8:52 am

    My daughter is 12 years old and is currently involved in a case regading this law. I am outraged that a 65 year old man goes to numerous sporting activities involving underaged girls and takes pictures of there rear ends. When I first heard of the charges I too was thinking, they are just pictures, how can they be harmful or considered so by just having pictures at a sporting event. Well, unlike this picture you have posted, my daughter was not flaunting and didn’t even have anything on considered risque. There were pictures of at least 100 young girls on this camera. While this law may seem like a joke to some, I think it may have some weight when watching who your neighbors are and what they have the potential to do.

    Like

  8. December 25, 2010 10:47 am

    Rob, I am a photographer located in Houston and I have lost a lot of sleep over this law. The real difference between the “Improper Photography” statute and the voyeurism laws in other states is everywhere else some kind of invasion of privacy is required.

    So far the only clear application of the improper photography law in a public place that has led to a conviction that I know of involves photographing children in places where they tend to congregate and the images are of either the buttocks or the groin. This has also been described as “from the neck to the knees”. I don’t have any problem with the result in this fact situation, but it does not change the fact that the law is vague. I know that I cant do what this guy did, but I don’t know what I can do. Chances are mad mama is referring to the same fact situation.

    Like

  9. December 25, 2010 12:20 pm

    In the early 8O’s, I took many photos on the Galveston seawall sidewalk, often at close range and frequently without prior permission. I felt that after 30 years the images have historical value, so some of them have been placed on my Houston radio history site. If you click on my name above, you can view them in the left column of that radio page.

    Here is a picture I took while standing on the seawall this past November. The picture would be of little value if it were not for the two apparently female figures in the foreground. In this case, the girls are unrecognizable, so there is no chance of an invasion of privacy claim. However, the “improper photography” law has made me much more shy about taking pictures at close range.

    Like

  10. December 25, 2010 12:48 pm

    Here is an example of an image where a claim of “improper photography” might be made. I took this in the Galveston Strand last March. There was nothing particularly sly about about my activity, since the camera was set up conspicuously on a tripod. At the time I was trying to take pictures of buildings, not people. This was a 30 second exposure, and I didn’t expect any people who were moving to be recorded. Nonetheless, this unusual image resulted. Here we see only the lower torsos and legs of girls (probably tourists on Spring Break) crossing the street. I am sure that it would be easy to find someone who would infer a sinister purpose of one kind or another.

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  11. March 24, 2011 12:09 am

    Here is another enforcement of the improper photography law. If the allegations are true, this would be more in tune with the original purpose of the law: http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news%2Flocal&id=8030123&rss=rss-ktrk-article-8030123&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_c

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. Improper Photography or What the Texas Troopers Thought Police Think You’re Doing with That Camera Hanging Around Your Neck – All Things + Thoughts PhotographyUncapped – Digital Photography – Adobe Photoshop CS5 – Ken Storch
  2. Need help/suggestions on child privacy policy - Webmaster Forum

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