Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Judge Rules Spying, Photographing Neighbors Is Protected ‘Art '

It is okay to spy on your neighbors and take pictures of their children in their homes without permission, as long as you do it in the name of “art.” That’s the ruling of Manhattan Judge Eileen Rakower in a case involving self-proclaimed “artist” Arne Svenson.

Svenson photographed his neighbors and their children through the windows of their homes. Then he put many of the pictures in a public exhibit he called “The Neighbors”. Svenson never bothered to get permission for the pictures. Instead, he sold the pictures for up to $10,000 each.
In her ruling, Rakower claimed that Svenson’s photographs are art that are protected by the First Amendment. Note to Judge Rakower: the First Amendment doesn’t mention the word “art”. Violation of privacy is not freedom of speech. Two families sued the artist because he had snapped pictures of their children in their homes without their permission. Earlier this month, Rakower threw out the lawsuit and defended her action by claiming that Svenson’s work was “art.”
Svenson used a camera with a high powered lens to take the pictures. His subjects lived in glass-walled apartments, yet they had an expectation of privacy in their homes.
This is an outrageous ruling because it allows anybody, including pedophiles, to photograph children in their homes and claim it is art. Worse, it leaves the door open for other outrageous activities, including blackmail.
Americans no longer enjoy the right of privacy in their own homes. Anybody with a camera and a powerful lens can take pictures of them through their windows and sell the pictures as art.


I wonder how long it will be before somebody tries to use this precedent to defend taking pictures of naked women or children in their homes? Once again, privacy is being sacrificed for so-called art in America.
Where will this end? A reality TV show that broadcasts footage of families in their own homes without their permission? This ruling is particularly scary in an age of drones and high tech cameras that can see through walls. What happens when self-proclaimed artists like Svenson get their hands on that technology?
Hopefully this ruling will be appealed; Svenson’s activities are not protected by the First Amendment. In fact, they could be a violation of the Fourth Amendment and laws against trespassing and wiretapping.
One has to wonder how Judge Rakower would have ruled if Mr. Svenson had been outside her home with his camera. Being a Peeping Tom is now a legally acceptable behavior if you sell the pictures.

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