Good news has arrived via the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) – at the 11th hour Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed a highly controversial bill introduced by the Arkansas Senate which would have all but banned street photography which featured any resident of Arkansas.
The Personal Rights Protection Act (SB79) sought to “Protect… the citizens of [Arkansas]… from exploitation” by effectively prohibiting the publication of any image of a resident of Arkansas taken without their permission. The bill was originally designed to stop the use of a citizen’s image being used to sell merchandise like t-shirts, but was so badly worded that it constituted an attack on the art form of street photography, opening street photographers up to potential lawsuits in the state of Arkansas. Full details of the issues in SB79 can be found in our previous article.
The ASMP campaign
The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), with the support of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the National Press Photographers Association (NPAA), the Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA) and the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), as well as streethunters.net, led a “grass roots” campaign to oppose the bill, calling on photographers to write letters to Governor Hutchinson in a last ditch attempt to have the bill vetoed and amended.
Governor Hutchinson delivered a fairly damning verdict of SB79 in his veto, noting “in its current form it is overbroad, vague and will have the effect of restricting free speech”. The sweeping reach of the bill, which would have allowed for a lawsuit against a photographer taking an “unauthorized” photo of an Arkansas resident even if that image wasn’t recorded in Arkansas (on the basis that the published photo could be viewed there), would “result in unnecessary litigation in Arkansas courts” remarked Governor Hutchinson. His veto letter in full is here.
He also thought that the lack of sufficient provision in the bill for the ‘fair use’ of publishing images “will suppress Arkansans who engage in artistic expression from photography to art work.” This was something we highlighted in our original article, and we are delighted the Governor appears to support this view. For us, SB79 constituted an attack on the art form of street photography as a whole.
A further attempt was made to override the Governor’s veto, but it failed to achieve sufficient votes in the Arkansas Senate, meaning that the ASMP’s campaign, and with it the “scores of letters” which Governor Hutchinson acknowledged he received, has succeeded in protecting freedom of artistic expression for street photographers. The timeline history of SB79’s movement through the senate can be viewed here.
Speaking after the success of the campaign, ASMP Executive Tom Kennedy said:
“The ASMP is very pleased that Governor Hutchinson recognized the flaws in this Bill and took appropriate action with his veto. We look forward to the opportunity to develop new language that will strike a better compromise between an individual’s rights, the needs of creators, and the best interests of the public at large.”
The ASMP have thanked Streethunters.net for our role in spreading their campaign, and have asked us to share the good news of the campaign’s success with our readers. The full details of the success of their campaign and its history are here. We would like to thank all street photographers who read our article and wrote letters to the Governor opposing the bill, as well as the wider photography community at large for helping to spread the word. Instances such as this one are a great showcase for community spirit of photographers, and the power of our common voice. We are also greatly indebted to the American Society of Media Photographers for launching this campaign, and standing up for the rights and artistic expression of photographers.
Here’s to the glorious art form of street photography!
Stay Sharp and Keep Shooting!