Here’s another high profile example of why we preach that obtaining property and location agreements is a wise practice. Photographer Allen Henson has been working on a photo project featuring topless women in public places. The New York Daily News and countless other media outlets have covered his exploits for obvious reasons – puns intended.
On August 9, 20013, Mr. Henson took to the world famous observation deck of the iconic Empire State Building to photograph a topless female model. While tourists of all ages presumably enjoyed countless views, there was one view they didn’t expect as Mr. Henson snapped away laboring on his self described art project.
The Daily News article can be read here.
CBSnews.com had a short article linked here, with a great quote where said “Henson says the view from atop the building is so breathtaking he didn’t think anyone noticed.” Yeah, right.
The Empire State Building, LLC gave Mr. Henson a booby prize for his actions in the form of a lawsuit. According to the Complaint filed in the New York Supreme Court, New York County, Mr. Henson neither sought nor obtained the consent of the owners of this premier tourist destination to use its premises. Tourists were standing just a few feet from the model while she was posing.
We are not a bit surprised that The Empire State Building sued Mr. Henson seeking among other things, compensatory and punitive damages (a/k/a money) from the photographer. The formal complaint references well published building rules for use by photographers and alleges that the defendant engaged in impermissible and objectionable conduct on private property. There are allegations of trespassing and that the shoot generated negative publicity and caused a loss of business for this family attraction.
We are not predicting what the outcome of this legal case will be. We have no position on who is right or wrong. Rather we point out that Mr. Henson will likely need to at least, retain and pay legal counsel and risk suffering a judgment against him for money damages. The extent of his financial loss – if any – is as yet unknown. This could all have been avoided by obtaining a property or location agreement from the owners of the Empire State Building. Likely such agreement would never have been granted in this case.
Note that most location shoots do not include objectionable or controversial photography and that landowners generally have the right to regulate and control the activities and persons on their property. A clearly written release permits the photographer to sleep at night and not have to worry about paying a lawyer – or worse – a money judgment. Remember this real life incident the next time some wannabe lawyer opines on the web that property or location agreements are “not legally required”. Betcha none of those experts will be financially assisting Mr. Henson in this litigation.