Contemporary Services Corporation Are…

I was going to complete the title of this post with “Douchebags”, but I’m not sure that’s the most appropriate term. Foolish? Ill-informed? Republican? Terrorists? Okay, this getting to political. I’ll just leave it blank and you can decide what word to fill in. Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

Shooting pictures can be a challenge sometimes. I used to run into similar situations back in high school when I was doing cinematography.

I remember I was shooting this one scene with my neighbor, Eddie, up at Eckstein Middle School. It was a Saturday, nice and sunny out. We’re in the parking lot shooting (he’s on top of the car, I’m inside basically letting the engine idle us forward). A cop comes up and starts asking us questions. Apparently, some of the parents (there are several soccer games being played on the field) thought we were video tapping cars that we wanted to steal, or something like that. Yea, it was really bizarre.

I also shot some video at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport garage complex. I was shooting the toll-booths because they look very similar to the US-Canadian border crossing booths. After a few minutes, I was asked to stop. I had got what I needed and left.

When I started getting serious about photography, I checkout some books about my legal rights. I wanted to know where I stood legally because if you know me, I like to push the boundaries. They more or less boil down to:

  • I can take pictures of anyone or anything on public property (this includes streets, sidewalks, and public parks)
  • Anything really does mean anything (in public, that is): accidents, children, celebrities, criminal activities, buildings, law enforcement offices, etc
  • Private parties, absent a court order, have no right to confiscate my film. Taking or attempting to take my film can constitute a criminal offense against me (such as theft and coercion)
  • The same applies for law enforcement, unless they are arresting me (which I hope doesn’t happen)

As always, I am not a lawyer (IANAL), so consult your attorney of choice before doing something rash. All the information above is taken from an excellent pamphlet put out by Bert P. Krages, who happens to be photography as well as a lawyer: The Photographers Rights. I keep this in my camera bag at all times and would suggest you do as well.

This brings me to EDays. From last year, I know that there are certain restrictions on how I shoot (i.e. flash or no-flash) and when I can shoot. That’s fine and all. This year, the CSC (Contemporary Services Corporation) Event Staff Supervisor comes up to me to make sure I know the deal. I say yes. Then he adds something to the effect of, “If you don’t follow these rules, I will have to confiscate your camera.”

As I noted above, confiscating or attempting to confiscate my camera/film is a no-no. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it because I was here already and I didn’t want to get kicked out before the concert even started. I was going to talk to him after the concert, but I couldn’t find him and I was dead tired.

So I did the next best thing, I sent an email to Mike Smith, Branch Manager for CSC Denver, Colorado:

From: Andrew Ferguson
Re: CSC photography equipment confiscation policy

Mr. Mike Smith,

My name is Andrew Ferguson. I’m a student at the Colorado School of Mines. I also happen to take photographs. On Friday, March 30, 2007, The Colorado School of Mines hosted a concert with Flogging Molly and Single File.

I was a volunteer photography at that event with a full access press pass. Before the concert, the Contemporary Services Corporation* Event Staff Supervisor for that event talked to me to make sure I knew the rules about only photographing the first three songs of each band and to not use the flash. I informed him that I did. He then preceded to tell me that if I were to break those rules, he would have to confiscate my camera.

I have read a few books on a photographers legal rights and talked to a few friends I have who are lawyers. It is my understanding that private citizens, absent a court order, are not allowed to take my equipment for any reason. Furthermore, taking my equipment, directly or indirectly, by threatening to use force or call a law enforcement agency can constitute criminal offenses such as theft and coercion.

I regret that I did not obtain the supervisors name, however, his blue jacket had the number 202 on it and identified him as the CSC Event Staff Supervisor.

The purpose of my email is to find out what CSC’s official policy on the matter of photography equipment confiscation is.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, my contact information is below.

Thank you for your time,

Andrew Ferguson
//my email address//
206-948-1701

We’ll see how that goes.

Note:
* If you don’t know who CSC is, they’re pretty much the Halliburton of event security. The minions wear bright yellow jackets and try to look tough. You’ll probably see them on TV if your watching a sports game.