Know Your Rights : A workshop for Press, Media, and Visual Journalist


A huge thank you to our workshop leader Diana Barbadillo.
Diana is an NLG Legal Observer who's commitment and consistent
work ion the ground has helped many feel supported and protected. 

We also want to thank the National Lawyers Guild for their dedicated efforts in ensuring our rights are protected and justice is served.
You can follow the NLG LA team




This is an important basis for understanding your rights with regard to law enforcement. Even if you are a member of the press, we have seen an increased disregard by law enforcement in making that distinction, so it is important to know your rights in general.


Types of Encounters by Law Enforcement:

1) Consensual: This is one in which the officer initiates the interaction, often in the form of a conversation. This type of interaction does not involve commands, the use of force, sirens, or anything of that nature.

o Test: “Am I free to leave?”

o You have the right to:

§ Walk away

§ Refuse to identify yourself

§ Tell the officer you do not wish to speak to them

2) Detention: law enforcement can briefly detain someone if they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

o Test: “Am I being detained?” “WHY am I being detained?

o The 5th Amendment gives you the right to remain silent. It is entirely within your rights to let law enforcement know that you do not wish to speak.

o However, you do not have the right to walk away or refuse to identify yourself.

o Frisking: Police may “frisk” outer clothing if they have reason to believe you have weapons or for their safety. If an officer feels something from plain touch and can tell it is contraband, they can then do a full search of your person.

o If after being detained, law enforcement has no probably cause, they must let you go. If they do find probable cause, they will proceed with making an arrest.

3) Arrest

o An arrest requires probable cause that you have committed a crime. There must be facts and evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a suspect committed a crime.

o An officer can arrest when:

§ There is a standing warrant

§ A felony has been committed and reason to believe that the accused committed said felony

§ A misdemeanor or felony has been committed in the officer’s presence






KYR: Police and Press

While being a member of the press gives you the right to do your job, there aren’t necessarily any extra rights given to you. You are given more protections, but not necessarily more rights.

Journalists covering protests have the same rights as other members of the public to observe, photograph, and record in public places. That said, there may be some limitations:

· The right to record/photograph may be subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions. What this means is that law enforcement may have some discretion with regard to where media are allowed to gather or whether media are allowed behind police lines depending on the situation.

· That said, police cannot limit access based on content. An officer cannot move you away from a public space because he does not like what you are capturing. However, if there is a public safety risk, that officer may have the right to limit access / ask you to move.

The First Amendment protections given to the press include protection from retribution from so-called “negative” coverage and protection from any attempts to prevent reporting on demonstrations in general.

Specific to the protest going on, one should take note regarding:

· Private Property: you cannot trespass onto private property under the guise of gathering news. If something is happening on private property, your safest bet is to see if you can cover it from a public area.

· Dispersal Orders: if you listen closely when a dispersal order is given after an assembly is declared unlawful, you’ll hear thatthe dispersal to leave or risk arrest applies to anyone in the area, “regardless of your purpose” for being there. This means that even journalists can be subject to arrest if they do not leave the area accordingly.

· Disorderly Conduct: Suffice it to say that you probably should not be engaging in any behavior that may be viewed by law enforcement as more akin to that of a protestor than that of a journalist. If you engage in civil disobedience, your press badges won’t help you.

What happens if police ask to see your photos/videos?

· Generally, you do NOT have to consent to this request. They may try to coerce you into it, but consent is voluntary.

· There would need to be exigent circumstances in order to bypass your consent. Exigent circumstances only exist where:

o an officer has probably cause to believe a crime has been committed; AND

o that you have captured evidence of that crime on your camera; AND

o there is a strong likelihood that such evidence may be lost of the camera is not seized. This last element should be difficult if not impossible to satisfy if you identify yourself as a member of the press.

· If police do seize your camera, they cannot view its contents without a proper warrant.

· In NO circumstances can the contents of a camera or recording device be deleted or destroyed by law enforcement.

Intellectual Property and Social Media

The basics:

o Images and photos are items of intellectual property. Generally, photographers are considered the owner of the images. Under copyright law, as owner, you have exclusive rights to that photograph.

o The only condition in which this might be different is if you are taking photos as an employee and its part of your work agreement. Generally, there are unlimited licensing rights granted to photographers in this case, but it would be best to check the fine print.

Fair Use:

o This doctrine permits the limited use of copyrighted material without the need to first acquire permission from the copyright owner. For more info, refer to the Copyright Act.

o The Copyright Act provides a statutory framework for determining whether an activity is fair use. Examples include: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

Social media:

o When someone uploads a photo or video to Instagram, what happens? Do you lose ownership rights? No. You do not lose any copyright entitlement.

o HOWEVER – the Terms of Use for most social media platforms gives said platform an exclusive sub-license to use any uploaded content. This means Instagram can license photographs from the site to others without their being any copyright infringement.

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