I was outside my office Friday, testing out a video camera, the last time my life was threatened.
As I swept the lens across the streetscape, a shirtless “gentleman” rode his bicycle through my field of vision. I didn’t even notice him. He asked if I was pointing a camera at him. I turned off the camera. What followed was a string of expletives aimed at me, including this gem:
“If my picture shows up on the Internet, I will hunt you down and I will kill you.”
So, here’s the offending video:
I don’t put this up because I want to be hunted down or, indeed, killed. I do, however, want to clear up a few misconceptions this gentleman, and many others as well, have about privacy. I’ll go through his argument point by point. I will leave out the curse words.
1. “It is illegal to point a camera at someone without their permission.”
Wrong. I can legally point a camera at whomever I’d like. Furthermore, most of us are caught on camera several times a day, at stores, street corners, gas stations and ATMs. Consent is not necessary.
2. “This is an invasion of my privacy.”
Wrong again. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy on a public street. That’s why it’s called public. If I want to, I can take your picture and run it anywhere I’d like — on the front page of a newspaper or magazine, on my website. I can’t use it in ads or commercials, but as many newspapers do, I can sell prints of your image. The copyright holder — the guy with all the rights — is me.
Want to know something that will bug you even more? It’s entirely legal for me to take pictures of you in your house! If I can see you from the street, I can take your picture. I’m not allowed on your property, but if you happen to be washing your unmentionables in front of your livingroom picture window, you’re fair game.
3. “I’ll call the cops and have your camera confiscated.”
Wrong. There is a clause in our Constitution that protects against illegal search and seizure. My property cannot be taken from me without either a warrant or “probable cause.” If the police have no reason to believe I’ve broken the law, they cannot detain me, search me or take my property without my consent.
4. “We’ll see what my attorney has to say about this.”
No we won’t. Perhaps you will hear what he has to say, but I believe you’ll be sorely disappointed. And I doubt you’ll want to fill me in when your lawyer tells you to get out of his office.
If I seem a little bent about this, I apologize. I don’t mean to sound rude. It was, however, more than a little upsetting to be treated that way. I explained to him that I wasn’t using the footage for anything, that I was only testing the camera, and that I planned to throw the footage away. I even explained that I didn’t actually intend to film him — he rode through my shot. None of those things mattered, though.
So, I have thrown out the rest of the footage. I am, however, preserving the bit above for posterity.
Way to go, guy. Hope it was worth it.