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Bill named for Ansel Adams aims to make photography extra legal

The new Ansel Adams bill introduced in Congress aims to make it “extra” legal to take photos in all federal spaces open to the public.

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Ansel Adams photography bill

A new bill, fittingly dubbed the “Ansel Adams Act” has been introduced to Congress and aims at making sure it is legal to take photographs in all federal spaces open to the public. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas and was introduced in an effort to “restore the First Amendment Rights of photographers.”

While it is currently legal to take photos in such public spaces, they do present some problems. The federal government has regulated them to specifically “prohibit or restrict photography in National Parks, government buildings, of law enforcement officers and other government personnel while carrying out their duties, and public spaces” according to the bill.

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How will the bill help? Some photographers have had their equipment confiscated, or have been threatened with arrest and/or confiscation of equipment for recording what can clearly been seen by the naked eye. This bill will also seek to ban fees, permits, and insurance from being required before taking photographs on federal lands, National Parks and Forests, and public spaces, regardless of how the media will be use (private or commercial). The bill would also make it illegal to seize and confiscate photographic equipment including memory cards, film, contents of equipment bag, lenses, etc. It would also make it illegal to force a photographer to erase their media as well.

You may be thinking, I am not a photographer, why should I care about this?

On the surface the bill will serve to reinforce First Amendment rights afforded to everyone, not just photographers; as the bill states: the First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” Since still and moving images are considering speech, anyone threatening photographers or forcing them to pay fees for permits or insurance in order to take pictures is “abridging” their First Amendment rights. Having this in place could help further issues regarding First Amendment rights.

The bill has been fittingly dubbed the “Ansel Adams” bill because Ansel Adams “helped bring home to Americans the beauty and fragility of our natural resources, ” according to the bill itself.  The next generation of photographers should be given the same chances and freedoms as Adams, especially considering Adams’ work served to foster support for making Yosemite a National Park.

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One thing to note, in closing, as noted by the Consumerist: Rep. Stockman’s last day in office was January 3, which was also the day after the bill’s introduction. January 6th was the first day of the 114th Congress. So the bill will need to be reintroduced by someone else in the new Congress or it’s already dead because bills cannot be carried over from one Congress to the next without being signed into law.

Here’s to hoping someone else reintroduces it.

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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