Teen's Video Unleashes Muni Photo Fracas

Transit agency plans to make photography policy public

By Sajid Farooq
|  Friday, Aug 7, 2009  |  Updated 5:13 PM PDT
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Teen's Video Unleashes Muni Photo Fracas

Camera Obscura on Flickr

Some people don't mind having their picture taken on Muni but then again they don't work for the transit agency.

It took a teenager and a scrappy online newspaper to get Muni to state what ought to be obvious: People can take photos in public places.

A 16-year-old Galileo High School student was shooting video on the K-Ingleside Muni line when fare inspectors 57 and 61 confronted him and told him he was not allowed to shoot on the Muni, according to our friends at SF Appeal, a local website.

In the era of smartphones, YouTube and Flickr, it's hard to go anywhere without seeing someone taking a picture -- and to imagine anyone who has a problem with that. Muni, after all, is taking our pictures all the time via security cameras.

But some Muni workers would like to keep their buses and trolleys camera-free, in contravention of Muni policy.

The unnamed student, who who says he likes "to videograph or take pictures in my spare time," told the Appeal he was detained at the Forest Hill Station "for, like, 20 minutes," by the fare inspectors after he threatened to post the video of them online. One inspector told him he was going to get the student's information and "sue" if he saw his image online.

The minor filed a complaint with Muni over the incident and got a form-letter response. SF Appeal showed the video to Muni spokesman Judson True and asked about the incident.

True said Muni's policy was that "noncommercial video and photography [is] okay as long as it doesn't disturb transit," and that the agency would post the policy publicly.

He said the transit agency has to do more work to have the policy clarified and written up but it should be out soon.

Until then, anyone with a camera in their pocket will have to watch out for censorious Muni workers with a penchant for making up rules as they go along.

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