An artist who hid in his apartment’s shadows and deployed a telephoto lens to photograph his neighbors through their glass-walled apartment is not liable for invading their privacy, a New York state appellate court has ruled.
The appeals court called it a “technological home invasion” but said the defendant used the pictures for art’s sake. Because of that, the First Department of the New York Appellate Division ruled Thursday in favor of artist Arne Svenson, who snapped the pics from his lower Manhattan residence as part of an art exhibit called “The Neighbors.” The ruling says:
In this action, plaintiffs seek damages and injunctive relief for an alleged violation of the statutory right to privacy. Concerns over privacy and the loss thereof have plagued the public for over a hundred years. Undoubtedly, such privacy concerns have intensified for obvious reasons. New technologies can track thought, movement, and intimacies, and expose them to the general public, often in an instant. This public apprehension over new technologies invading one’s privacy became a reality for plaintiffs and their neighbors when a photographer, using a high-powered camera lens inside his own apartment, took photographs through the window into the interior of apartments in a neighboring building. The people who were being photographed had no idea this was happening. This case highlights the limitations of New York’s statutory privacy tort as a means of redressing harm that may be caused by this type of technological home invasion and exposure of private life. We are constrained to find that the invasion of privacy of one’s home that took place here is not actionable as a statutory tort of invasion of privacy pursuant to sections 50 and 51 of the Civil Rights Law, because defendant’s use of the images in question constituted art work and, thus is not deemed “use for advertising or trade purposes,” within the meaning of the statute.
The appeals court said that beginning in 2012, Svenson, whose works have appeared in museums and galleries in the United States and Europe, began “hiding himself in the shadows of his darkened apartment” to snap the pictures of his neighbors.
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