Could a Camera Click be Compelled Speech?

by Jason Fischer

H.R. 414 was introduced into Congress this month with the title “The Camera Phone Predator Alert Act” (source). In an effort to combat unauthorized pictures, which might be taken in places like dressing rooms, locker rooms, and the like, the bill would require all mobile phones, made in the United States, to emit a “tone or other sound” that would be audible “within a reasonable radius of the phone” whenever a picture is taken. Under the legislation, a user would also not have the option of disabling the sound.

If the sound made by a phone, when a picture is taken, is designed to communicate a message (i.e., “I’m taking a picture now”), would it be a First Amendment issue to require the sound? Can the government compel every camera phone user to make this statement each time they take a picture?

8 Responses to Could a Camera Click be Compelled Speech?

  1. Christopher Harbin says:

    Nice, dude — I had that in my mental queue to blog on it. GET OUT OF MY HEAD

  2. KWW says:

    My Samsung Blackjack is already compelling me to give up my position. In order to take pictures without some sort of noise I had to create a small MP3 of silence and then select it as the shutter sound. There must be an MP3 associated with the camera for it to work.

    I learned this the hard way when I tried to take a stealthy picture in a class one day. Set the phone to silent mode, snapped the picture and heard a loud “GREAT!” – which is apparently the default.

  3. Mike says:

    Constitutional Issues aside, I’m more surprised that somebody thinks camera phones are actually still manufactured in the USA.

  4. jfischer1975 says:

    That’s what I get for assuming my source was accurate. The actual text of the bill reads, “any mobile phone containing a digital camera that is manufactured for sale in the United States . . . .”

  5. justjss says:

    From Forbes … in 2003!

    “More likely to gain prevalence are camera phones that make some kind of noise to alert bystanders of the possibility that their photo is being taken. In November, the South Korean government ordered manufacturers to install beeping sounds of at least 65 decibels on camera phones made and sold there, after officials received a flood of complaints about camera phone-wielding peeping toms. Samsung and LG Electronics, two of Korea’s largest such manufacturers, have begun to do so.

    “While noisy camera phones may never be mandated by law in the U.S., they’re likely to make their way here since many of the country’s handsets come from Asia.”

    Source URL:

  6. Mark Kernes says:

    Not much doubt in my mind that the gov’t could make an effective argument that the click is a “reasonable regulation,” the compelling interest being so people who might be nude or otherwise in positions they might not want to pose in would know when someone’s photographing them. But yeah, it’s an infringement.

  7. […] of speech and cameras? Read about it here; there is a bill in Congress which would require camera phones to emit a sound when they take […]

  8. […] Could A Camera Click be Compelled Speech? […]

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