ow and again I get into trouble with my camera. Since moving to Vancouver, the following has happened because I have a mid-sized, sadly now obsolete but still loved, Panasonic DVX-100b camera:
- Accused by a protester, dressed in black with only his eyes showing, of unlawfully videotaping him at a public protest in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery against the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
- Threatened with the untimely smashing of my camera by a drug dealer on Hastings and Carrall street who then proceeded, despite having full knowledge of my presence and where I was shooting and that he wasn't the subject, to carry out more than one crack deal right in front of my lens.
- Detained by Translink security guards while being told that the presence of my camera was a security risk and possibly offensive to passengers.
In each of these cases, I've gone out of my way not to piss anyone off. Provoking reactions with a camera is not something I try to do.
What I was going to add with the video, but ran into a deadline, was to point out each of the other cameras that are in my shot, There are at least 2 different iPhones video taping and multiple security cameras. The unhelpful security guard told me that he couldn't do anything about all the camera phones, but he could do something about mine. Turns out, no... no he can't really, and his ego was grandeur than his actual authority. I suspected as much, but I wasn't sure.
The most they can really do is ask for my bus pass. Until you are a real security risk, and not just a guy with a camera, they can't touch you at all. Security has no more power of arrest than anybody else other than cops.
I know all this because I checked with the BC Civil Liberties Association. They are very helpful at clarifying the rules.
As for the drug dealer, well, I wasn't going to argue, so I tried to make friends. He apparently doesn't have a problem with the near daily presence of movie cameras in the area, or continuing his trade in front of my camera. Just a friendly threat. I'm not a tattle, and I think the police have left that part of the city up to it's own devices (unless it gets Robocop bad, I assume).
The first guy was just one of those annoying kids who think that smashing windows at the Bay are going to stop the Olympics. He had a tenuous grasp of the legal system and reality. Seems the young are far more certain of their rights than I am.
None of these people have a problem with the big network cameras, or camera phones. Just mid-sized, obviously independent, polite film makers.
I'm sure there must be some reasonable limit to this, but if you are taking photos or video in a public place, you are allowed to. It doesn't matter if you use a pinhole camera, or a leica, or a huge video camera with a CTV logo stuck on the side. This applies even more if it's a news event. Strange as it might seem, random people singing on the train, is a news event.
It was surprising to be busted by Translink Security. Mostly I resent the attempt to talk to me like I was a junior high kid trying to get a free train ride.
Next time I'll just keep recording.
pdate: This 3 minute human interest story was supposed to air on the Shaw program that I volunteer with. Apparently the show where this was to appear has been pulled because of me, mostly. My little video has been censored.
I confess, I'm torn. While I'm sort of proud that I've created something that was too hot for tv, that was never my aim. There isn't any swearing or nudity (which are the two things I would make sure to do if I really wanted to be too hot for tv). This story was always supposed to be about some people singing on public transit. The powers that be at Shaw would like there to be only 10 seconds of copyright protected singing... even though this is a news item and thus not held to the same rules. Not sure how the Beatles and Journey would feel about people singing their songs on the skytrain. I'd be pretty proud if I had written the song.
The other issue was that I should have gotten a release form from the security guard. That is debatable. While this would have been ideal, it would not likely happen. Besides, he made it even more of a news item. I would never have included him had he not decided to stop me, something that is beyond his authority to do. The footage just wasn't that strong. I was supposed to follow these guys for another half hour of fun. I could have made it prettier.