How would you feel if you learned that a photographer took pictures of you and your kids through your windows and then made those photos public? Your family may feel safe and secure in your own home or apartment, but according to one judge, that isn’t the case.
Arne Svenson claims to be an artist as he takes photographs of his neighbors through their windows in Greenwich Street area of New York. Like any peeping tom, Svenson looks through his neighbors windows and photographs them, including their kids. Then he puts his photos on display and calls it The Neighbors. Worse yet, he is selling the peeping tom photos for as much as $10,000.
Parents Matthew and Martha Foster found out about it and filed a lawsuit against Svenson. They were quite upset that he was taking photos of their kids through their windows and those photos were being used to promote his art display in New York and California. In their lawsuit, they charged that Svenson’s behavior ‘shocks the conscience and is so out of keeping with the standards of morality in the community.’ They sought to prevent him using the photos of their kids and demanded that he hand over all images of their kids.
Believe it or not, Manhattan Judge Eileen Rakower dismissed the lawsuit ruling that artistic freedom prevails over parental rights of privacy. Sighting that the exhibition is ending and that Svenson promised to ‘scrub’ his Facebook page and website of the images, Rakower ruled:
“The value of artistic expression outweighs any sale that stems from the published photos.”
However the damage has been done. A number of his photographs have been sold including one of a woman wearing a green dress cleaning the floor in her apartment.
A friend of the couple that filed the suit reacted to the ruling saying:
“What are the implications here for parents?” You can just have people shooting your kids in their bedrooms, and nothing can be done about it? You can’t just hide behind the word ‘art’ to behave poorly.”
In most areas of the country, anyone caught peeping through someone else’s window will be arrested and sent to jail. But after Judge Rakower’s ruling, all they have to do is carry a camera and claim they are doing it for art and they just may walk away scot free with their perverted trophies.
This dismissal raises another issue. I’ve worked for several places that often took photos of people and crowds out in public and in order to make any of those images or videos public or use them on advertisements or websites, we had to obtain written permission of the people we videoed or photographed. Svenson never obtained permission and yet this liberal judge ruled that permission is not needed because it’s art.
I hope the Foster’s appeal the judge’s dismissal and that one of the conservative legal organizations steps in to help them fight for the rights of privacy and parental rights. If need be, this needs to go to the US Supreme Court asking them rule in favor of parental rights and the rights of privacy over some perverts claim of artistic freedom.