Back to News & Commentary

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and The Gregory Brothers Team Up With the ACLU on Photographers' Rights

Derek Newton,
ACLU of Florida
Share This Page
February 7, 2012

A couple of weeks ago at the Sundance Film Festival, the open-collaborative production company hitRECord released a short animated music video on photographers’ First Amendment rights, in collaboration with the ACLU of Florida.

Ironically, while sharing digital information is fast, easy and quickly becoming universal, getting the word out about the right to record and share information is still a challenge. Even though the ACLU has drafted and released written material on the rights of photographers, a written pamphlet about the right to capture and share digital images just wouldn’t do. So we reached out to the directors and artists at htRECord to help spread the word about the right to take pictures in public.

Enlisting the help of The Gregory Brothers (best known for Auto-Tune the News), HitRecord reprised their song “You Can’t Turn the Lights Off Now,” from an earlier animated video about Prop 8 to fit the new message. Then, just six days before Sundance, HitRecord director Joseph Gordon-Levitt, asked artists around the world to help put images to the music for the big show.

In less than a week, more than 163 artists had contributed to the final video. Gordon-Levitt (aka RegularJOE) directed the final production and introduced it Sundance.


Privacy statement. This embed will serve content from

Please note that by playing this clip You Tube and Google will place a long-term cookie on your computer. Please see You Tube’s privacy statement on their website and Google’s privacy statement on theirs to learn more. To view the ACLU’s privacy statement, click here.

While the video is fun, the message is serious. Taking photos in public of public actions — especially police — is a protected right.

But that has not stopped police from seizing cameras, destroying pictures or making arrests. We’ve seen it happen in mass protests such as the “Occupy” movements and in a high profile police involved shooting here in Miami Beach last year.

People have a right to monitor their government and share what they learn. That’s why the ACLU will keep fighting for the right to keep government — including the police — open and honest by defending the rights of photographers. Like the song says, “Corruption thrives on secrecy. Transparency is good for you and me.”

For more information, check out our resources on photographers’ rights.

Learn more about photographers’ rights: Sign up for breaking news alerts, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Learn More About the Issues on This Page