Should Photographing Other People's Kids Be Illegal?

A proposed law in New Jersey would make it illegal to photograph or videotape children when "a reasonable parent or guardian would not expect his child to be the subject of such reproduction." It's aimed at child predators, but may also wind up punishing the innocent.

The Newark Star-Ledger reports that the bill is a response to a recent incident in which a 63-year-old man was caught taping children at a swim meet. He told police he found the 8 to 10-year-old girls "sexy," but he couldn't be charged because according to one mom, "these innocent 8-year-old girls were not naked when he videotaped them."

The bill, which is currently before the state's Assembly Judiciary Committee, is admittedly problematic. Ed Barocas of the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU says the language used is "overly broad and far too vague." He adds, "If you take a picture of your child at the Jersey Shore building a sand castle, and there were other children in the background, would that violate the law?"

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande proposed a solution: Make it illegal to photograph just the genital region of minors, even if they're clothed. That still doesn't help much, since predators may not zoom in on a child's crotch, and it may make photographers nervous about taking on ad campaigns for kids' bathing suits or underoos.

As Lauren James-Weir, an attorney for the New Jersey Press Association, points out, the law would also make it difficult for new outlets to publish any photographs featuring children. She explains:

"If a newspaper covers a high school track meet, before it could take any photographs it would have to verify the ages of all the persons who may be captured in those photographs ... If any of these people are under 18, a photograph by the newspaper would be in violation of (the bill) unless the newspaper either obtains consent from all these parents or was confident that a reasonable parent would expect his or her child to be photographed."

Celebrity parents would probably flock to New Jersey if the state made it illegal for paparazzi to tail their kids on the way to school, but it seems unlikely that the bill will pass. Though everyone understands the intent of the measure, "reasonable parents"' opinions will vary on when they should expect their kid to be photographed. The number of child predators prosecuted under the law would probably be far outnumbered by frivolous cases, like when parents are arrested for taking bath-time photos of their kids.

Some N.J. Lawmakers Target People Who Photograph Children Without Parental Consent [NJ.com via N.Y. Daily News]

Image via Warren Goldswain/Shutterstock.