Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting (MOFTB) Commissioner Katherine Oliver today announced the release of a newly drafted permit rule proposal, which is available online and published in the City Record. Under the proposed rules, which are designed to codify procedures that have existed in practice since the office was established in 1966, a permit would be required for a shoot if production equipment or vehicles create an obstruction, but not for productions that only use hand-held cameras or tripods that don’t cause an obstruction. The publication of the new rules, which are subject to public comment, follows the MOFTB’s decision to redraft rules following an initial publication and comment period that was extended to August 3, 2007. A copy of the proposed rule and an accompanying executive summary and “Q&A” document explaining it are available on the MOFTB website at

The proposal, drafted as part of a settlement in a lawsuit, was revised after a passionate outcry over the summer from fine-art photographers, independent filmmakers and civil libertarians, including a group moblized by NCAC, concerned that the original rules would have restricted unobtrusive video recording.

Under the new draft of the proposed rule, a permit would be required if equipment or vehicles are being used by the production or if the filming activity creates an obstruction. “Equipment” is defined as film cameras, videocameras, lights, sets, and other production related materials, but does not include hand-held devices or tripods.

“Obstruction” is defined in the proposed rule as the assertion of exclusive control over a public space resulting in the obstruction of one or more lanes of a street or walkway, or when production activity results in either less than eight feet or one-half the width of the sidewalk or passageway (whichever is greater) being available for unobstructed sidewalk use by pedestrians.

A permit would not be required if the production uses hand-held devices or tripods, its activity does not present an obstruction, and it is not using equipment or vehicles. An optional permit would be available in these instances, and would not require liability insurance.

The rules would also not impact press photographers, who are routinely credentialed by the NYPD, or student filmmakers, who meet their insurance obligations by coverage through their school’s insurance program.

Public comment is now open for this current draft of the rule, with a hearing scheduled for December 13, 2007.


Filmmakers, Photographers and Free Speech Advocates Object to Pending New York City Filming/Photography Regulations

August 1 , 2007

New York City is instituting new rules regarding filming and photography on the streets of the City. Many independent filmmakers and photographers are concerned that the rules will have a deleterious effect on their work.

The National Coalition Against Censorship has collaborated with videomaker Marshall Reese to send the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting a letter on behalf of a large number of filmmakers, photographers, and free speech advocates, which insists that the City revises the proposed rules so that they do not stifle creative freedom.

While accepting the need for written regulations in general, we are calling for the elimination of several sections, which unnecessarily burden small-scale independent filmmakers and photographers by requiring a permit and one million dollar insurance for filming with a hand-held camera when it lasts more than 30 minutes in a single location and involves two or more people, as well as for filming with a single tripod when it lasts more than 10 minutes and involves five or more people. We further propose an addition to the regulations, guaranteeing that permits will be granted in a viewpoint-neutral manner and that no permit shall be denied because of the social and political views of the applicant, or the ideological, political or social positions expressed by the subject matter.

You can read more about the rules on the NYCLU’s website.
The City recently extended its comment period for the new rules to August 3, 2007.