Some tourists, amateur photographers, even would-be filmmakers hoping to make it big on YouTube could soon be forced to obtain a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance before taking pictures or filming on city property, including sidewalks.
Why the new rules now?
The NYT explains:
In May 2005, Rakesh Sharma, an Indian documentary filmmaker, was using a hand-held video camera in Midtown Manhattan when he was detained for several hours and questioned by police.
During his detention, Mr. Sharma was told he was required to have a permit to film on city property. According to a lawsuit, Mr. Sharma sought information about how permits were granted and who was required to have one but found there were no written guidelines. Nonetheless, the film office told him he was required to have a permit, but when he applied, the office refused to grant him one and would not give him a written explanation of its refusal.
As part of a settlement reached in April, the film office agreed to establish written rules for issuing permits. Mr. Sharma could not be reached for comment yesterday.
What are the new rules like?
New rules being considered by the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than a half hour to get a city permit and insurance.
The same requirements would apply to any group of five or more people who plan to use a tripod in a public location for more than 10 minutes, including the time it takes to set up the equipment.
What is the effect of the rules?
The rules define a “single site” as any area within 100 feet of where filming begins. Under the rules, the two or more people would not actually have to be filming, but could simply be holding an ordinary camera and talking to each other.
i.e., in short, if you're brownskinned and carrying a camera, the NY police can harass you at their own discretion.