Off Campus: Part 9

The photographer said, “Not happening. I took those pictures. They’re mine. End of story.”

He pulled his camera with one hand, and held his left a little away from his body as if he intended to block with it. It didn’t look like he’d had any kind of martial arts training. The way he held his arm, it would come up too slowly.

Hunter asked me, “Isn’t there some kind of law against taking pictures of people like us?”

I glanced over at Haley, and she shrugged.

Turning away from her, I said, “I don’t know. I think there might be some kind of law that allows people to seek damages if a photo of an unmasked person results in someone getting killed, but I’m not sure. I think photos might be a freedom of speech thing.”

Gifford looked at me and then at Keon. “Can’t either of you do something?”

We both said, “No,” simultaneously.

And what could we have done? I might have been able to cause an EMP and take out most of the cell phones and computers in the building. It would have been a solution, but not a smart one.

The bouncers each took one of the photographer’s arms, and escorted him out.

He tried to talk to them. I couldn’t hear his words over the noise of the club, but the bouncers kept on walking, and neither let go.

Gifford exhaled, slumping a little as he stood on the dance floor. “This is fucked. He’s got our faces.”

I shook my head. “It’ll probably be fine. My understanding is that most publications simply don’t print superhero identities unless the person’s been convicted of a crime. Aside from which, they handed out photo blurring dust, so assuming we all used it, we’re all okay. Besides, you don’t have a secret identity, right?”

Gifford shook his head.

“Um… What do you mean? Are you saying that you don’t have a public identity or that you didn’t put the dust on?”

His mouth moved, but I didn’t understand his reply. He must have realized that because he tried again, this time making his voice heard over the music. “Both.”

Keon blinked. “Are you kidding me? That was not smart.”

Camille’s jaw dropped. “Oh… That’s awful.”

Next to me, Haley said, “That explains why his heart has been beating so quickly.”

Courtney didn’t say anything, looking in the direction that the bouncers had taken the man.

Hunter spoke after a moment. “No. Don’t worry about it. I’ve got this.”

Then he broke out into a grin. “My mom showed me how to handle this once. I didn’t think I’d ever have to use it.”

Courtney raised an eyebrow. “How did you handle it?”

Hunter looked around, and I followed his eyes. No one stood near us. The dancers were further away from us on the floor.

Coming to the same conclusion I had, Hunter said, “You probably guessed I’ve got the same power as my mom. Well, we can’t do much with small particles, but once our creatures are big enough, we can do a lot with them. I grew a couple guys before we went into the club in case something happened. On the photographer’s way out, one of them bumped into him. Then he extended little tentacles into the camera, and damaged the memory cards.”

Gifford laughed. “That is awesome. You just saved our asses.”

Hunter shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. I brought people here.I figure I’ve got to handle it.”

“Still,” Gifford said, “that doesn’t change what you’ve done. It just keeps it awesome.”

Adam broke into the conversation. “I hate to be a party pooper but if we want to talk about this any more, we need to talk about it somewhere safer.”

“A good point,” I said.

It was. Anybody could show up at the club at any time.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed movement, and turned to find that Keith and Zoey had left the dance floor, and joined the group.

Keith tapped me on the shoulder. “I saw the guy with the bouncers. What’s going on?”

* * *

Later that night, I drove the van back to Castle Rock. It wasn’t a bad drive. Construction had closed for the day, and there wasn’t much traffic. I liked driving at night in any case.

With all the other cars reduced to headlights, and the landscape little more than darkness, it felt a little like flying.

Of course, with all of us sitting there and nothing to do but look out the window, it was inevitable that we’d talk over the night.

Camille had swapped seats with Courtney for the ride back. Her voice came from the distant far end of the van. “Hey Haley, is this what it’s always been like for you? Green rooms and paparazzi?”

Haley twisted around in her chair. “No. The only time we got into costume was to fight, and if we were somehow in costume without fighting, it was because we were still inside the Heroes League’s base, and you know what that’s like.”

“I don’t,” Keon said. “What is that like?”

Camille giggled. “Not a green room. It’s more like a musty basement with forty year old carpet.”

Keon laughed. “That’s more than I had to work with when I started. I was stuck with my room for a lab. I would have killed for a musty basement. It would have been nice to not have people walking in on me all the time. My mom freaked out when she found me taking my wheelchair apart. Crazy.”

He went silent for a moment, and then said, “Are any of you worried about what happens when the guy discovers he’s got no pictures?”

8 thoughts on “Off Campus: Part 9”

  1. So, unauthorised photography is answered by criminal damage to property using a superpower? Life is tricky, isn’t it?

    I saw a proposed write up of a photo and video privacy law: if video is taken, and people are identified in the video, then those identified must be informed, and they acquire joint ownership of the video as they have (involuntarily) contributed to it. The idea was this allowed recording of crowd scenes, without getting a release from everyone in the scene, and, commercial videoing of people to do automatic id of them followed by targeted advertising became a lot more difficult. Related constraints on police videos, of individuals and crowds, though with time delays to allow investigations. This all grew out of ideas of who was responsible for the use of various sorts of data, and, images of (identified) individuals were, at least partly, their property. And, individuals get to have some say about people making money from them.

    The philosophy of the existing law is rather different from this, but, once you have recording equipment all over the place, things get a lot more tricky…

    Typo(s):

    “that doen’t change what you’v done”; should be ‘doesn’ and should be ‘ve’?

  2. Dreamer,
    anyone on the video who CAN be identified should acquire ownership (or at least “right of refusal” to publish). Otherwise, the next time someone’s psycho ex-boyfriend sees them on TV and murders them, you’ve got problems.

    This comes up with minors a LOT.

    The obvious solution is to be HIPAA compliant — obscure all faces if you don’t have permission. Won’t fix your “i’m crippled and blue, and in a wheelchair” (how many blue people are there??), but it works for most people.

  3. I imagine that laws protecting the identity of undercover agents would also apply to superheroes. It’s going to get you into some major trouble to take pictures of undercover cops, DEA, NSA, CIA, or FBI and then expose them for the world to see.

    Other than that, you could hope for human decency to prevail. Rimshot, please!

  4. The problem with any privacy laws as that they are a balancing act. That means that they’re not a simple problem, there’s ‘complex issues’. Many politicians don’t want complex issues, they want simple stuff, sound bites, things they can turn into slogans. Unfortunately, this means if you rely on popularist politicians to frame laws, anything like this wont be done right. On the other hand, if you just rely on technocrat civil servants, they probably will give you laws that are too complex, and are unworkable because people don’t understand them. Do you get ethics panels involved, too? So, you need another balancing act, this one in the law-making process. [grin]

    One big advantage of superhero and science fiction stories is they can get you to think about issues that people otherwise wouldn’t. Super powers and super science (which are the same thing for Nick) open up responsibilities for the use of power. Taking stills or video in a public place – who is responsible for ownership of images – smudging faces might work, short term. But, if people can be recognised from how they move, or the images correlated with other images to show the whole route they took to that place, and away from it, it’s not enough. Should any organisations be allowed to compile tracking data on individuals, to sell to advertisers, or to just file it away in the hope of making future money from it? Bad uses – working-out optimum times to burgle people’s homes.

    Super powers like x-ray and telescopic vision get us to think about privacy issues. Superman in general respects the privacy of other, Nick doesn’t use roach-bots to spy on his friends, or, anyone, without good reason.

    Technology changing the world, something worth thinking about as New Year 2015 arrives. When travel between countries was slow and expensive, a passport was something only the rich had, to introduce them in new places. Fast cheap travel, and everyone must have a passport, bar maybe the very rich. Next, will passports as physical objects disappear, as everyone is tracked everywhere? Changes…

    So, you can tell anyone, reading superhero and science fiction is a socially useful activity! [grin]

  5. Before I get to far in the reading I’m gonna leave a little bet to myself that either the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree or the apple’s Momma set this up herself. This smells real fishy.

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