Heading to Washington, D.C., to attend the Presidential Inauguration? You're bringing your camera with you, right? Well it shouldn't come as any surprise that heightened security measures across the Washington area will affect where you can go, what you can bring with you, and what you can do to cover the inaugural events. In an effort to help the estimated two million people who are expected to attend some of the events, the Citizen Media Law Project just published a legal primer on attending and documenting the 2009 Presidential Inauguration.
The 2009 Presidential Inauguration is actually a series of events held over four days. The festivities start Sunday, January 18 with a "kick off" event at the Lincoln Memorial and conclude Wednesday, January 21 with a prayer service. A list of official events is available on the Presidential Inaugural Committee website, and a map of Washington displaying where the various events will take place is available from The Washington Post.
We expect that many attendees will want to document the events, whether for purposes of reporting on a blog or other website, or simply to create a personal record of their own experiences. During the Inauguration, strict security measures will be in place across the area, particularly where official events are taking place. These security measures, as well as tickets, permits, and credentialing requirements, will impact what you can do to document the events.
While many inaugural events are open to the public, free of charge, some events, like the ten official Inaugural Balls, will require a ticket to attend. The Presidential Inaugural Committee handles ticketing for official events other than the swearing-in ceremony, which is handled by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. You should check the Presidential Inaugural Committee's website for information about which events require tickets, and how you can acquire them.
Your location and what events are taking place at the time will influence what legal and other limitations you may be subject to. Generally speaking, you should have no problem if you bring small, handheld still and video cameras and carry them in a small bag (but not a backpack). While we found nothing written that suggested any size limitations on cameras, officials told us in telephone conversations that small, handheld equipment is the safest bet, given that security screeners have discretion to prohibit any item "that may pose a threat to the security of the event." To the best of our knowledge, small microphones and other recording devices will be permitted as well.
To help you navigate the security requirements and get the most out of the Inauguration, we've created a Guide to Documenting the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. The guide is the product of a tremendous amount of work by Alexandra Davies, a third-year law student at Harvard Law School and a participant in the Berkman Center's Cyberlaw Clinic. Alex researched the many security directives and made countless telephone calls to officials at the Secret Service, D.C. Metropolitan Police, U.S. Capitol Police, and the National Park Service in order to get to the bottom of what is permitted and prohibited at the Inauguration.
The Citizen Media Law Project began rolling out its Legal Guide, with the generous financial assistance of the Knight Foundation, in January 2008 and continues to add information addressing the legal issues creators of citizen media may encounter as they gather information and publish their work. The guide is intended for use by citizen media creators with or without formal legal training, as well as others with an interest in these issues. You can access the full guide to documenting the Inauguration here: Documenting the 2009 Presidential Inauguration.