New N.Y. film rules draw protest

NYCLU says proposal targets 'casual photographers'

New film permit rules recently proposed by the New York City Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting are causing debate here after the end of a public comment period last week.

The office said it is working on finalizing the rules by month's end. They would go into effect 30 days after being published, the MOFTB said Monday on its Web site.

The rules proposed May 25 led to criticism from the New York Civil Liberties Union late last week. In a formal comment on the proposed rules, the organization argued that the new regulation "would require large numbers of casual photographers and filmmakers to obtain city permits" along with insurance and "should be abandoned."

MOFTB said in an online comment Monday that its permit process "is remaining substantially unchanged" and is "merely codifying existing procedures."

As part of a settlement of a recent NYCLU lawsuit, the city agreed to adopt written rules to narrow permit requirements. A hearing on the proposed new rules took place Thursday.

The NYCLU called the proposals "a considerable improvement over the prior scheme because they generally exempt from the permit requirement those using handheld cameras, exempt photography or filming at protests and demonstrations, and eliminate onerous insurance requirements."

However, it criticized that the rule proposal calls for a permit for two or more people using a hand-held camera in a public area for more than 30 minutes, which the NYCLU argues could be interpreted strictly to include casual video and photo activity by tourists and others.

"This requirement makes no sense, violates the First Amendment right to photograph in public places and opens the door to selective and discriminatory enforcement," NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman said last week.

The MOFTB noted that "this situation is rare for recreational photographers."

MOFTB officials couldn't be reached for further comment.