The problem with words…

Recently, I learned that the Isle of Palms (IOP) in South Carolina has made it illegal for photographers to take commercial photography onto the public beaches.  The specific phraseology of a recently posted page for IOP states that:

“Commercial activity, including photograpy, is prohibited on the Isle of Palms beach.  Unless a special exemption is granted by City Council, photographers who take portraits or photographs on the Isle of Palms beach as part of a commercial transaction are in violation of City ordinances.”

For now I will ignore the part where they mis-spelled photography as ‘photograpy’ (because it’s probably just a typo).  Instead I would like to take a moment to discuss the larger implication of making photography illegal.  It is noted further down that commercial photographers can “obtain an exemption” but this is far different from the traditional practice of “requiring a permit”.  This is basically making photography illegal.  You can be granted an exemption from legal enforcement if you request it from City Council, but that is entirely different than requiring a professional photographer to pay for a permit at City Hall.

IOP Laws on Commercial Photography

View the full page here

Keep in mind that coastal beaches are publicly owned and maintained by the state, and thus public access is required.  While restricting the nature of access is fine, the verbiage here presents serious problems and implications for photographers.  So, the burning questions in my mind are:

  • Can IOP do this?
  • Is this an acceptable practice?
  • Does the ASMP know about this?  If so, why aren’t they taking appropriate actions?

Why has no one come forward to challenge the legality of this law, because on prima facia grounds, it seems to run in direction contradiction with traditional practices toward permitting and banning of commercial activities.  Typically, commercial activity requires simply paying a fee at the local municipality, obtaining the permit to continue, and then continuing.  That is not the case here – they are requiring an exemption to be granted by the entire City Council!  Lastly, I also cannot help but wonder where organizations like the ASMP haven’t gotten involved or taken exception to this.

I understand what SC is trying to do, and don’t necessarily have a problem with the intent – what does appear to be problematic though…are the words.  Worded correctly, there would be absolutely no issue with this, but as it currently stands, there is a definite problem with the words!  What do you think?  Vote in the poll or sound off in the comments…

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