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Picture Police: No concert photos in public park?

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  July 29, 2010 05:42 PM

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The Chicago Reader published an interesting story today: Organizers of the Pitchfolk Music Festival earlier this month in that city refused to allow concertgoers who carry what they call "professional" cameras, defined as cameras with detachable lenses, into the concert -- even though the concert was held in a public park.

The paper reported on the case of a local man who, not knowing about the policy, lugged his Nikon D5000 with interchangeable lenses from his apartment to the concert in Union Park.

A security guard who searched his camera bag denied him entry. He asked if he could check the bag and pick it up on the way out, but there were no such arrangements. Desperate to see the concert, he snuck in with the camera -- and promptly got caught and thrown out.

So the Reader posed the question: Does Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, or anyone else who rents out a public park for a private event have the right to limit the type of cameras people can bring in?

Just about everyone the paper asked said yes, as long as that stipulation was in the lease agreement the organizers signed with the Chicago Park District -- and it was.

The Pitchfork Festival director said concert promoters have to balance the desire of fans to get good photos of their musical idols with those of the musicians who want to control who makes money off their images.

He also pointed out that the park isn't really public during the concert; people have to pay admission and adhere to other restrictions, such as no pets, food, tents, flags, etc.

But a civil rights lawyer the Reader interviewed had a different take: He questions whether the Chicago Park District has the right to enter into an agreement with a promoter that forces the public to give up what he argues is a fundamental right. He also thinks it's an arbitrary and unreasonable restriction because no security issues are at stake; it's simply bowing to the wishes of the performers. It's also not a copyright issue, since the agreement does allow the audience to take photos -- they just have to do it with a point-and-shoot.

At some point, these musicians are going to realize that many point-and-shoots can take fantastic photos, just as good as, and in some cases better than, some DSLRs. Then what -- a total ban?

The story has more information than I recapped, so read the entire piece here, then post your thoughts below.

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