May 23, 2003  ·  Lessig

So I have this from an extremely reliable source, who vouches totally for the facts that follow.

Story one: Last month while visiting Charleston, three women went into a Starbucks. They were spending the weekend together and one of them had a disposable camera with her. To commemorate their time with one and other they decided to take round robin pictures while sitting around communing. The manager evidently careened out of control, screaming at them, “Didn’t they know it was illegal to take photographs in a Starbucks. She insisted that she had to have the disposable camera because this was an absolute violation of Starbuck’s copyright of their entire ‘environment’–that everything in the place is protected and cannot be used with Starbuck’s express permission.

Story two: At our local [North Carolina] Starbucks, a friend’s daughter, who often has her camera with her, was notified that she was not allowed to take pictures in any Starbucks. No explanation was given, but pressed I would think that the manager there would give a similar rationale.

I wonder what would happen if hundreds of people from around the country experimented this holiday weekend by taking pictures at their local Starbucks …

  • Are Bee

    I had a similar experience with the soap shop “Lush” in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada over New Year’s. It was just mad. Fortunatly the protestations of the manager involved were quite amusing and I wrote it off to being bizarre. It seems I was both right and not alone.

  • Marshall

    So, what if I sat down in front of a Starbucks with my pad of paper and made a drawing of the storefront? Would they come out and rip up my picture? It seems that, far from discouraging it, they’d WANT their logo spread as much as possible to keep it in the public mindset.

    This seems like the classic case of a huge corporate behemoth bullying its way around until someone actually has the guts to stand up to their bizarre claims. I wish there was a Starbucks near me just so I could wander around with my camera.

  • Cameron S. Watters

    Wouldn’t the following provision in the US Copyright Act have some bearing here? Lawyers out there can tell me if/why I’m wrong.

    Title 17, Chapter 1, Sec. 120

    (a) Pictorial Representations Permitted. –

    The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place.

    While Starbucks isn’t a strictly public place, if they invite the public inside, don’t they make it effectively a public place? And if not, can I take the pictures from the sidewalk through the windows?

  • Anil

    This is absolutely Starbucks’ corporate policy, as we were able to document on video while taping some footage for Chuck Olsen’s Blogumentary.

  • Howard Fore

    A friend of mine and I were at Lenox Square in Atlanta for some event at the Apple Store. He was taking a picture of something (I don’t remember the subject now, but something innocous) and a security guard buzzed us. He said we couldn’t take any pictures inside because so many celebrities frequent the mall (news to me) and it would be invading their privacy. Puhleeeze.

  • Robert Scoble

    Heh. I took pictures of the “first Starbucks” here in Seattle. I should post those.

    By the way, Fry’s doesn’t let you take pictures inside their stores. I talked with the owner about that. He said he did it mostly because he wants people to discover the store themselves, and not be able to discover it from seeing photos.

    When I used to work at a camera store, we would never let people take pictures inside the store. Nor would we let them write down prices. We didn’t want our competitors to be able to learn how we priced things.

  • dwlt

    Just out of interest, I wonder what would happen if you had a cell phone with a camera, such as the Nokia 3650? Would they try and confiscate that?

  • mal

    How does this apply to museum displays? Often they disallow photographs. I was at a Dale Chihuly display, taking pictures when some attendant said I couldn’t, and there were posted signs and such to that effect. I can see if it is for preservation purposes of the medium but I hardly imagine glass is affected by picture taking.

  • JH

    I can’t believe that any employee at Starbucks would actually care, or try to enforce it. I would think that the Starbucks employee who would crap in their pants over something like that would either have to be a corporate ninny (visiting from corporate to oversee a store), or a sad, sad person, with a sad, sad life…

  • bcb

    In downtown Chicago, Starbucks are on every corner, it seems. First point: the endless tourists taking pictures this summer will no doubt be violating this absurd policy regularly; go ahead and try to enforce it, $tarbuck$. Second point: I’d love to see some dweeb manager try to take my camera/film/CF card from me. If he put his hands on me, he’d get a broken nose. If he insisted, I’d make him call the police, who I highly doubt would be interested in helping him take my personal property.

  • Dave Winer

    Pics from outside Starbucks in Cambridge on Mass Ave between Harvard and Porter Squares.

  • sean bonner

    here’s a ton of pics I take on a regular basis at starbucks! they are of celebrities hanging out

  • Tommy Williams

    While it may seem absurd, Starbucks is perfectly within their rights to prohibit photography inside their stores: they can’t stop you if you’re on public property (such as a street or sidewalk) but they can absolutely stop you if you’re inside their store. Whether this is a good business practice or not has nothing to do with their legal rights.

    There’s a great bit of info, “Legal Handbook for Photographers,” published by Bert P. Krages of Portland Oregon ( He has a PDF there that is just the right size to be printed and carried around with you.

    One very important point to know, though: without a court order, private parties (such as the manager of Starbucks or a security guard at the mall) have no right to confiscate your film, camera, or digital media. Police officers may take your film when making an arrest but otherwise they need a court order. Threats to take your film or digital media by calling the police can be considered a crime, but I have no idea what the limitations are here.

    Of course, I am not a lawyer, but as a (very) amateur photographer, I pay careful attention to restrictions on the rights to photograph.

  • Chuck Olsen

    Starbucks’ manager was threating to call the police when I was shooting Anil and the Sopranos lady. I had to wonder, what’s the legal basis there? Can I get arrested for violating Starbucks corporate policy?

    And, will Starbucks let me use the footage since I shot without permission, sortof? Maybe, if they want to do something about their tarnished image. And I say pretty pretty please.

  • sam


    Here is my thought about your question.. I don’t think you can be arrested for violating corporate policy, because its just some silly policy, not a law. However, the company has the right to make the policy, and they have the right to refuse service to people who don’t abide by the policy. Since they reserve the right to refuse service (and your very presence inside the building is part of the ‘service’ they offer), then if they choose to refuse service by asking you to leave because you took pictures, and you don’t leave, then it is trespassing, and then they can call the police.

    The police wouldn’t come because of the camera or the pictures, they’d come because you were staying in a place that you were expressly told to leave, which would be trespassing. Its unlikely you’d actually get arrested unless you were being violent about it.

    And no, private parties can’t confiscate your personal property. They can ask you to leave / kick you out, but they can’t steal your stuff, even if they threaten to.

    I might go take some pictures just for the hell of it, there is a starbucks very close to my house..

  • Robert Nagle

    I too tend to resent these prohibitions, but let me explain the rationale from a business point of view. A lot of retail stores view their displays as proprietary information, and they don’t want to make it easy for competitors to know exactly what displays and prices look like. Also, photography/cameras can potentially reveal embarassing behavior of employees which could be used in a civil legal action. For these and other reasons, it makes perfect sense to restrict the amount of videotaping/filming inside a commercial property.

    In most cases, a restrictive policy tends to alienate people (i.e., what if photographing were prohibited inside Disneyworld?) Reasonable managers might be relatively tolerant of photographing that doesn’t seem aimed specifically at the commercial property. But what is the individual photographer do? ASking for permissions violate the spontaneous nature of photographs. Retail establishments like Starbucks have little to gain and a lot to lose by such restrictive policies. Let’s hope we are talking only about one or two uptight managers.

  • Steve Mallett

    I think the jig is up already.

  • R. Moose

    Most places (malls, Toys R Us, Starbucks) will not let you take pictures inside. The reason that I have gotten after pressing this many time (too many, but not enough to get arrested) is that they are usually doing it for security reasons. They do not want layouts of the store and other identifing information. In the early 80s a bunch of mall burglaries in California were the result of picture taking and then smash and grab. This seems like a reasonable reason. The copyright reason is what most of them use. And some TRU managers (and Frys, Best Buy, Circuit City) told me it was that they also wanted to reduce shoplisting and price comparisons.

    So not all reasons make sense or the managers/employees do not understand the reasoning behind the reason.

    [It is not recommended to take extremely graphic pictures on a disposible camera and then go to Starbucks and have them confiscate the camera, making sure you didn't leave any fingerprints or identifying images]

  • Chris Pirillo

    There’s a reason I only drink Peet’s.

  • Scott Betts

    I used to work for Starbucks as a barista back in the day. Ca. 1994 – 1997, no photography was allowed in any of the stores I worked in and my managers enforced it routinely in a friendly way. The rationale was to prevent copy cat retailers from documenting floorplans, merchandising, etc. Starbucks has invested *heavily* in engineering its store environments and didn’t want potential competitors to glean information on the cheap. I realize this sounds flakey, but in Seattle where you have Starbucks, Tully’s, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Torrefazione, *and* QFC competing in the coffee beverage arena, it’s quite cutthroat.

    Very few people ever got upset as long as the manager was pleasant about it.

  • Chuck Olsen

    If Strawbucks was smart, they’d realize how much this policy hurts them. I think it indicates their brand is sick. The way to heal it? Have a “Take your picture @ Starbucks Day” or some such. With Santa Clause. In June.

    [thanks sam]

  • Glenn Fleishman

    We all have the constitutionally allowed right to not frequent the premises of companies which do not provide governmental services or act as arms of the government. If you’re in private property, they can ask you to stand on your head or leave, but they can’t violate civil rights or local statutes.

    So they can’t ask you to leave because you’re black, gay (in some areas), or three feet tall (in some areas), but they can ask you to leave because you’re talking too loud on your cell phone, consuming food purchased elsewhere, panhandling, or taking photographs.

    I’m sure there’s a good list somewhere of what civil rights we have in most places of public accommodation, and whether Starbucks qualifies for that.

    Frankly, people inside companies tend to get focused on what they think is basic knowledge. The manager who freaked out must have thought that customers have Starbucks corporate policies tattooed on the inside of their eyelids.

  • Michael

    Almost all retail spaces (especially larger ones) prohibit photography by policy, if not in practice. It’s a little weird to have the manager flip out over it, though.

  • Steve Minutillo

    My first homework assignment from Professor Lessig! I’m almost too nervous to turn it in…

  • John von Seggern

    My partner and I were instructed to stop taking digital photos by the staff at a Starbucks in Bangkok Thailand a couple months ago, so I guess it’s safe to say that this is a uniform global policy…

  • Bob Schumaker

    How many Starbucks are there? Can we get them all? Or is it an asymptotic effort? Here’s my contribution.

  • Jim O’Connell

    Ok, to be fair, as far as corporate policies go, this one seems a bit on the reasonable side, if the staff is tactful enough to handle it.

    Having the policy in place prevents people from *documenting* the place.
    Of course, the manager in the original story who freaked out in such a weird way should probaly, say… *Lay Off The Damn Coffee* a bit and relax. (He’s probably lost his job by now anyway.)

    I’ve begrudgingly become a regular at my local Starbucks, the one at the corner of Kottodori and Aoyamadori in Tokyo. Yes, I hate the idea of huge, anonymous, generic chains overtaking the planet, but, you know what? The staff at that one are great.
    They know what I usually order, they don’t waste my time, they simply outperform any of the other coffee shops.
    The only gripe that I have is the lids — they always leak.

    I would respect their no-photo policy to the extent that it is reasonable – I wouldn’t snap photos of the staff at work or the fittings and fixtures, but I wouldn’t hesitate to take a picture of a friend. I sincerely doubt that I’d be asked not to do that either.

  • pat

    I can attest to the thing where the staff freaks out when taking a picture of someone else, not the store itself. “SIR!!! SIR!!! YOU CAN NOT TAKE PICTURES INSIDE OF STARBUCKS.”

    Like that.

    Actually, that barista fascista could have used a Venti Doblo Caffeinisimo to *calm down*

    But whatever.

  • Christine

    I wonder if they would take issue with the fact that I named my site “Big Pink Cookie” after the cookies that they sell in their stores. I have several photos of them in their “natural habitat”, including my latest snapshot that I just took on Wednesday. To date, no one has said anything to me about snapping photos in their stores.

  • Al Billings

    I was doing a round of digital video stuff with a group of digital people from Microsoft about seven months ago. As part of it, I was taking pictures of different coffee houses in Seattle (an easy subject matter) and I actually got myself thrown out of a Starbucks for taking a picture (which I became aware of as a problem when the manager threw me out of his store…).

  • Jim Corbett

    I was very disappointed to discover on my recent first every visit to the famous Harrods in London that they too prohibit photography. Anyone who’s ever been inside will appreciate why you’d want to take a photograph – it’s got to be the most lavishly kitted out store in the world! I might be wrong but it was my understanding that photography was disallowed simply so that people could go about their shopping without being caught on camera every few seconds?

  • http:/ Ian Betteridge

    I’ve never ever come across any store that permitted photography on its premises.

  • Chris Yu

    The copyright issue of it all is quite ridiculous. But people seem to be missing one thing. Flash photography is downright annoying. Even without the flash, the beeps of digital cameras or the chimes of Japanese camera phones are not exactly soothing as you’re trying to sip your coffee, read your book or have a conversation.

    Starbucks not only sells coffee but tries to create that ‘third place’ other than your home and your workplace. Frankly, they should be able to ask patrons to follow rules if the behavior going on is detrimental to other customers.

  • Mr. X

    When a friend of mine visited me in NYC, our first stop was the (back then) brand new Apple Store in Soho. We asked if we could take a “tourist picture” of us to one of the sales associates. She took the picture for us and went to get some kind of brochure/press release about the cool all-glass stairs featured in their flag store.
    Apple rules :)

  • may

    In this day in age when you are surreptitiously photographed by security cameras countless times in major metropolitan areas (and soon, by cam-phone toting citizens) it’s actually somewhat comforting to know that there might actually be a few camera-free zones out there. You might actually APPRECIATE it later in years to come. And like someone else said, Starbucks is private property…you don’t have to go to there if you don’t like their policies. Try taking a photo in any mom & pop fish or vegetable market in San Francisco’s Chinatown (I tried last week). They will tell you very firmly that they don’t want you taking photos inside their store. So it’s not just big corporations who don’t want you photographing on the premises.

  • jerry

    Mary, just because they don’t allow you to take pictures, does not mean you are in a security camera free zone.

    However, with the coming ubiquity of small, unseeable cameras on cell phones (nokia 3650), pdas (zire & zaurus) this is going to be a store policy that is impossible to maintain.

    People that want a picture for nefarious reasons (smash & grab or to copy the Starbucks designs, layout and colors) will have no problems doing so, and customers that want a pic out of curiousity or mementos will face harassment. Stores will realize, why harass customers if it doesn’t save you from the nefarious?

  • Adam

    Off to do a starbucks tour in Denver, I have my Sprint Camera Phone all ready to go! Results later!

  • Steve Poole

    Scott, Starbucks has acquired both Seattle’s Best Coffee and Torrefazione. I learned about the latter when my usual Torrefazione latte supplier began serving something else a few weeks ago. Grr.

  • irritant

    At the risk of sounding like a miserable killjoy (which I most certainly am not), I’m surprised at your surprise that companies have such policies. As a keen photographer for a 20 years I can tell you for a fact that almost every building bans photography, never mind Starbollocks. It’s downright wrong but it’s commonplace.

  • Clyde Smith

    This is really kind of old news if you’ve been involved in retail. From my own experience, retailers have blocked such photography since at least the mid 1980s. Malls in particular will not let you take photos of store fronts or in the stores. Basically you’re on private property and they are protecting their form of intellectual property (such as it is). Whether this has been challenged legally or not would be interesting to know (legal researchers?).

    Obviously the Starbuck’s manager referred to in the original posting was a control freak who lost it. But trying to figure out what’s going on by asking security personnel or clerks is a losing game. They’re usually told to say something that sounds good or make something up on the spot. The practice of explaining things in a way that seems convincing to the person giving the explanation and/or their bosses rather than giving the actual explanation is a rather ancient concept in business and government.


  • Richard Bennett

    I wonder what happens if one of these intrepid photographers happens to catch a cheating spouse in the act of enjoying the company of an illicit lover, posts a picture to the web, and incidentally triggers a divorce action.

    Would the aggrieved party have a cause of action for privacy violation?

  • lightning

    Bizarro has an appropriate political comment.

    If I’ve screwed up the URL above, go to the main site and look up the cartoon for 8 May, 2003.

  • Rick Klau

    Prof. Lessig -

    How’s this one – we have a picture, taken inside a Starbucks, by a Starbucks employee! Check it out (from a Meetup meeting for Governor Dean in April):


    Rick Klau

  • Humphrey Bogus

    Well, we may not be able to take pictures inside Starbucks. But people certainly have taken outside photos. In fact, here’s one person who is trying to visit and photograph every Starbucks.

  • Netizen Kane

    As someone who has a camera around his neck (or in his pocket) virtually all the time, this is something I’ve run into more than once. Most recently, I was snapping a pic of vividly colored pillows in a Manhattan Crate and Barrel with my new Lomo. I was, of course, promptly told that in-store photography was prohibited. I find it amusing I was clearly not trying to do anything this sort of policy looks to thwart — I was taking a picture of pillows, for chrissakes.

    Oh well. After having worked in retail way back when, I know what a miserable existence it can be. It’s why I got out — and why the folks who enforce these type of silly policies need to as well.

  • Steve Shaviro

    I took a photo in my local Starbucks today, inspired by this thread. One of the employees told me, “you can’t take pictures here.” I replied, “I know, I am doing this as an act of civil disobedience,” and she let me proceed without further objection.

  • Gil Friend

    I just had this happen – politey – in a state gov’t office building in Sacramento. Guard said I couldn’t take a picture in the lobby withour permission from the building manager. “Recent security measure?” I asked. “No, always been this way” he said. Very strange.

  • william

    are malls considered public places? i had a photography teacher tell me once that they can’t forbid you from taking pictures in the mall, but i’m not sure about within individual stores. he said it fell under the rules of photojournalism(so they have to allow it). but i don’t recall more than that.

  • nob seki

    It is Starbucks’ decision whether they retain the right to keep customers from taking photos, since there are two types of customers and Starbucks can choose one of the two to serve: those who want to take photos and those who don’t like to be bothered by practices of photographing.

    I don’t know if Starbucks really tries to create a place where people are not bothered by photographying (a comment from an ex-Starbucks barista shows it was not), like a restaurant that prohibits from smoking even though it is located in a state that doesn’t ban smoking in public property. My opinion, however, is to let managers do their best to satisfy customers who want to take photos as long as photos are not for rival shops or taking photos doesn’t make other customers feel bad.

    Here in Japan, many of people have a cellphone with a cam (especially young people) and young people really take photos almost everywhere, but I haven’t seen anyone who is told not to take photos in Starbucks (I should start watching this in Starbucks, though).

  • Paul W. Swansen

    We visited six here in the Denver Metro area and in only instance we’re we told we couldn’t take pictures. We’ll have a more permenant link up with all the pictures up a bit later.

  • Lessig

    Ok Joe, that was brilliant. Next time I’m in Nashville.

  • Kyle

    I say, take your Starbucks pictures and make bumper stickers and drive around town with ‘em. Get this stuff off the web.

    Yeah, this also kind of works as a plug for my site. But some stuff you just gotta fight for. We’ve got competition, and — That’s the beautiful thing about the web, we’ve crawled all over their site, they’ve crawled all over ours. We all want to kick each others asses. Competition in the free market. Online, reverse engineering is the order of the day — None of this defenfing against “industrial espionage” bunk.

    Anyway, make a sticker _somewhere_. We’ll take a buck from each sale and donate it to Creative Commons. Peace, Kyle.

  • Scott Leverenz

    I find it such an interesting social commentary – coffee has become such an important part of of life – we think about getting it, we think about what “flavor” we’re going to get, we stand in looooong lines to get it, when we get there, we usually “get one” for someone else, we memorize all the various combinations, then we spend lots of time drinking it. We spend so much time ‘about’ coffee that now we take pictures while we’re drinking it. There’s even a publication call “Too Much Coffee Man”. Geez, why am I so worked up? (Maybe I shouldn’t have had that second cup of coffee this morning!)

  • Mark Nottingham

    Done , with a camera-on-phone; it was e-mailed via GPRS and on the Web before I reached the front of the line, so the window for confiscation was quite small.

    These policies aren’t surprising – the first thing you learn in photoj 101 is that privately owned spaces need permission – but such an extreme reaction to taking photographs – especially for what could be very innocent, personal use – is. Something about noses, cutting and faces seems appropriate.

  • davin

    I would have to say that Jerry has the best point out of all the arguments that I have read. If someone wants your floorplan, they can take it from outside the massive starbucks windows. If someone wants to go to the trouble to find out where a certain item is for a smash and grab, I am certain they would have the time to leisurely walk in, look at the item (instead of suspiciously taking a picture of it) and note the location mentally.

    The biggest problem with shooting publically is getting people in shots that do not wish to be photographed. To me, this is more important than some frivolous corporate policy or any given security reason — most of which don’t wash with me at all.

    Personally, I have taken many pictures in Starbucks. Probably hundreds. I don’t think the no-photo policy takes into account the value of the free marketing they receive as a result of noncorporate photography. There is sooooooooo much to be gained there. They say there is no better advertising than word of mouth, and if a photo is worth a thousand words.. that’s some damn good free advertising. especially if it is on the web. ;)

  • Anonymous

    The same holds true at Apple retail stores. No photography allowed. pretty sad really.

  • Robert

    This is a sad sad reflection on the state of American society at the moment. Doesn’t happen in London – and they don’t throw you out if you smoke !

  • Ned Batchelder

    This isn’t a new phenomenon either:
    Weasly Starbucks

  • Ken

    Now this is funny…Here are at least two photos I took in a Beijing Starbucks…and no one complained. Not allowed in USA…no problem in China…that’s rich :)

  • Lessig

    I’ll have a follow-up to these great comments, both pro and skeptical, after the weekend. Meanwhile, here’s the results of our trip to Castro Starbucks last night. As expected, no trouble at all in this highly tolerant part of the city.

  • Jack Foster Mancilla

    I went over to Starbucks today. And here are my pictures of the Starbucks on Balboa and Genesee in the Clairmont area of San Diego. Really it is 5 pictures stiched into a cube. … I did not have time for the zenith. … So it goes.

    Starbucks Clairmont

  • Chris Barrus

    And here’s the Starbucks on 2nd St. in the Belmont Short area of Long Beach, CA.

  • Betsy

    The yearbook crew from my high school had a similar experience. They took a picture of some kids in front of a Starbucks sign and were told that that violated copyright laws. So, in our yearbook, they put in the picture but blacked out everything but the S’s in the signs. Of course, all the kids know what is missing and are laughing at Starbucks.

  • Frederick Emrich

    The Starbucks position is part of a glowing tradition in the privatization of (what is supposed to feel like) public space. The coffee Starbucks sells may be tasty, but it’s stronger appeal lies in its provision of an area where we can meet with friends (and strangers?) in a relatively free environment. When we realize the environment is not so free, it’s something of a shock.

    Galling as the Starbucks policy is, however, I find it a less troubling than the fact that governments have similar policies in ostensibly public spaces. Some years back, I found that the NY Transit Authority prohibited photography in the subway system, effectively limiting gathering documentary (or personal) footage underground.

  • Gohsuke Takama

    I had a hypothesis of that Starbuckses close to famous landmark may be doing such policy enforcement. because I encountered similar.
    I had a meeting with guys from Japan at a Starbucks on top of Moscone Center North on Apr 15. they just flown into San Francisco for RSA conference. during the meeting they wanted to take a groupshot for a memory. but while one guy was adjusting focus, store clerk guy came and said we counld not take pics inside the Starbucks. no further explanation’s given, and I could not find any writen notice in the store too.
    anyway I thought about this could be one of such terrorist scared policy enforcing because the store was at known landmark. (if so this case could be a candidate for Stupid Security Awards) however by reading other stories, I’m feeling this hypothesis may be not applied well.

  • Eric

    Starbucks, Portland Airport. Alas it was already closed when I was walking by, but this’ll do.

  • Museum Photos

    I volunteer at a Museum and the reason why you cannot take pictures is because of print/media copyrights. You cannot publish the picture without prior consent of the artist/museum. The preservation part is a problem (flash something a few thousand times a day and it will discolor over time).

    There is something to be said about security and maybe even marketing (all those postcards and museum books???)

    Why would you want to take a picture inside Starbucks in the first place? It’s not like that’s going to be any different when they open the next store down the street :)

  • Museum Photos

    I volunteer at a Museum and the reason why you cannot take pictures is because of print/media copyrights. You cannot publish the picture without prior consent of the artist/museum. The preservation part is a problem (flash something a few thousand times a day and it will discolor over time).

    There is something to be said about security and maybe even marketing (all those postcards and museum books???)

    Why would you want to take a picture inside Starbucks in the first place? It’s not like that’s going to be any different when they open the next store down the street :)

  • Peter Lindberg

    Here’s our contribution, titled “Cervantes at Starbucks, Pismo Beach, May 27, 2001″ (note that it was taken two years ago today).

  • AJ Schuster

    I did my homework: My sister at Starbucks.

  • Phil

    Wow, only in the US I suppose. In Japan, where everyone has a cell phone with a camera in it, the folks at Starbucks could care less if you take pictures in there or not. Come to think of it, I can think of at least one time when we took a group picture in a Starbucks in Tachikawa…with a “regular” camera!

    Oh well.

  • pduggie

    Hey Museum Photo person:

    How can copyright possibly apply to art objects created in the 19th century and prior, when they copyright has long expired, or the object may have been created before copyright?

    Or is this just an excuse?

  • Scott Leverenz

    I couldn’t get into a Starbucks to take a photo this past weekend, but I did want to contribute to the cause, so I’ve set up the site where you can email any photos and/or send links to photos and I’ll post them on the site. I have some there now for everyone to enjoy.

  • ktlyst

    It is true that art gets damaged by light. Nothing is permanent. So destroy starbucks signs with your flashes, but please don’t take pictures of old things in museums that have signs next to them that say please don’t take pictures. Just think about how draperies get faded in the sun over time to imagine what happens. Thanks.

  • Fuzzy

    Then the rule should be “no flash photography”, not “no photography”. I also don’t use a flash when taking photos of animals at the zoo, but I have yet to have an animal react to the sound of my shutter from outside the cage. I highly doubt that a painting or statue will be bothered by my film gathering the light reflected from the room lights, any more than my eye gathering that same light will hurt them. People who try to create or enforce stupid rules simply increase the lack of respect for *all* rules.

  • Rex Luscat

    >People who try to create or enforce stupid rules simply increase the lack of respect for *all* rules.>People who try to create or enforce stupid rules simply increase the lack of respect for *all* rules.

    Bingo! Fuzzy gets it!

  • Jon Meltzer

    My mother’s name is Nancy Starbuck. My middle name is Starbuck. Can I sue them for defamation? :-)

  • Hasselblad

    The museum thing is for copyright reasons: If you take a photo of some old object the copyright of the photo will belong to you, meaning that they’re no longer the single source of pictures of Mona Lisa or whatever.
    And eventually (maybe) your photo of the Mona Lisa will become public domain, and they really don’t like that.

  • Shawn

    In San Diego, after “camblogging” a local Panniken (kind of like a Starbucks) and leaving a business card, I got a voice mail from a very self important Panniken “store manager” asking about the nature of the photos.

    I left him a very polite explanation (voice mail) about what our site is and the harmless nature of it, but then I just removed the images from my camblog. I really don’t need the hassle.

    One would think publicity is a good thing! :-)

  • Brian

    I had no problem taking these photos back in April. This particular Starbucks is located at Park and the Tollway in Plano, Tex.

  • Bryan C

    However sensible they may seem from the perspective of the business, these sort of policies are sure to meet with greater friction as cellphones and PDAs with cameras become ubiquitous among their customers. I think we’re likely to see lots of people taking snapshots routinely at the drop of a hat, quite possibly sending them to other folks far away at the same time. And it won’t be obvious that they’re even doing it. How are you going to stop that? And is it worth the potential alientation and discomfort for your customers, who see themselves as doing nothing wrong? I think most people will be unlikely to understand and sympathize with the desire to keep the interior decor of a famous coffeehouse chain or electronics discounter a “secret”.

    I carry my digital camera around with me a lot when I’m out and about. It’s a fairly bulky SLR in a purse-sized shoulder bag, so there’s no way to hide it even if I wanted to. I’ve been asked to stop taking photos only once, in a Giant Foods grocery store where I stopped to buy a few things. The assistant manager politely explained that I’d need written permission for that. I was surprised, but since I was only taking a snapshot of some obscure produce to check out online later I didn’t care that much. And politeness counts a lot with me.

  • Henrik

    I know it’s horrible and all but being a foreigner, I just find this hysterically funny.
    Silly Americans :)

  • afpilot

    Corporate idiocy must be stopped!

  • ldg

    i’ll have to scan my ol’ 2000 starbuck pix later…i remember my friend and i were at the mall in GA back then, taking photos all over the place, we came around this stand selling sunglasses, i tried a few on and took pictures. the guy kept looking at me but i didnt care. a few steps ahead, i took images of my friend standing in front of a cellphone selling booth. the guy said we couldnt take pictures. i said okay, and left already with the images on my digital camera. just 10 seconds or so afterwards, a cop tapped me on the shoulder and both my friend and i were shocked at what the cop said: he told us the cellphone salesperson didnt not want us to have the images of his booth and made us delete them. this was in the mall around mid-afternoon or so on a friday or saturday. the cop was quite strict though friendly in telling us.

  • Tim

    I’m starting to wonder what kind of money people with photographic memories can make.

    This is really silly considering that any competitor could simply send some design people down to a local Starbucks and they could make some quick notes and drawings that would be 10x more useful than a typical photograph.

  • Patrick

    In ‘n Out Burger ( here in California, Nevada and Arizona has the same no photography rule. I do not understand why a picture of something is so dangerous to them. I mean, couldn’t I just memorize the lay out or the cooking process if that’s what I wanted? Or maybe pay a fpormer employee for the info?

  • RadCap

    Sigh. So much for the concept of the right to one’s property (which includes the right to dispose of it as one’s sees fit – regardless of whether you agree with, or even understand the rationale behind that disposal).

    What we have here is everyone seeking to control property that is NOT theirs. Whether you are allowed to visit that property or not is dependant upon that property owner. You enter it by permission – NOT right.

    It is interesting that an owner’s use of his property is labeled fascist – but the violation of that property by you is viewed as just and proper. In other words, you deny your own fascism (control of property removed from the owner) in the very breath you assert it in action.

  • mutant

    how about a mc drive?
    the manager wanted the photographer to delete the picture, but hey, we’re alo-ists and don’t give a damn!

  • picture taker

    For what it’s worth, I’ve taken several pictures inside and out of the Starbucks in University City (St. Louis) MO. Not of the store, per se, but friends in and around it. Never had a problem.

  • Winter

    Sorry that I’m late to the party, guys, but I was on the road when the link to this page was sent to me, and on a budget, so I had to limit my time online at Kinko’s.

    I’ve been photographing Starbucks since 1999, so I’m well aware of their corporate policy, and how their managers often misinterpret it and come outside the store, even across a busy street, to tell me photography is disallowed. I try to explain that they have no say over what I do outside the store. This behaviour of their staff irritated me to no end, but thankfully I don’t have to deal with it anymore, since I now walk in with the articles written about my project, so they know what I’m up to.

    As much as the belligerent behaviour of some of their staff has irritated me in the past, think about this–how would you like it if somebody entered YOUR home and started taking photos without permission. If you buy into the concept of private property (and not everyone does), then you have to accept that the concept is meaningless if the owner is not allowed to control, to a certain degree, what is allowed on the premises.

  • Mike

    I agree with Winter about the private property thing, but (there’s always a “but”) the difference between a retail establishment and your home is that they actively invite people in.

    The idea that they’re trying to protect their “look and feel” is ridiculous – someone can come in who’s a good artist, and draw the whole thing out afterwards. Or somebody can come in with a little camera and take pictures unnoticed. Maude and Ethel taking pictures of their in-laws with an Instamatic aren’t trying to copy anything.

    The main objection is with the managers going off the deep end. A simple “we’d prefer you didn’t take pictures in here” will handle 98% of the cases. For the other two, they can take off the gloves.

    There is a long thread somewhere about how far malls can go in restricting behavior – I’d have to hunt around and find it.

    I think the problem for the avearge person is the notion that “you can come in here, and in fact we really want you to (so you’ll buy stuff), but there are things you may not do (beyond the accepted rules of conduct)”.

  • Winter

    Mike is spot on with his last statement. People, in general, don’t like to be told not to do things. But anyone who lives in a society has to accept that she cannot do everything she would like to do, and to attempt to get her way in every situation is to invite conflict.

    That being said, I think we all agree that baristas and managers should not go ballistic, but rather politely inform a patron that photography is disallowed. This applies not only to Starbucks, but to any situation in which one person has to ask another to cease some behaviour. Politeness goes a long way towards avoiding escalating conflict.

  • Mr Bog

    This is really strange � I worked at Starbucks for a couple of years, albeit in the main office and not a store; I never heard of such a policy, never read it in any manual. I�d ask for proof. Make them show you documentation. Make them show you the page in the Ops Manual if it exists.

  • http:///blog Elin

    Well well. We had no trouble at all.

  • randy

    I was in Virgin Records in Times Square in June. I inquired about snapping a photo of an album cover poster, and was told by security that no photos are allowed inside Virgin Records stores.

  • Darren Addy

    I ran into this while in Australia and touring the Sydney opera house. No pictures/video as everything is protected under copyright. How silly! (But at least we can say this is not strictly an American phenomenon.)

    I can can say that there might be legitimate security reasons for not allowing such things. Imagine walking into your bank and taking detailed pictures of the interior. I would think this might (rightly) raise the interest of security personel.

  • Tim

    > are malls considered public places? i had a photography teacher tell
    > me once that they can�t forbid you from taking pictures in the mall,
    > but i�m not sure about within individual stores. he said it fell under the
    > rules of photojournalism(so they have to allow it). but i don�t recall
    > more than that.

    Not sure what the “rules of photojournalism” are … but I know that running around (most) malls with a camera and openly taking pictures will get you booted. I’m a newspaper business reporter, and one of the great hassles of my job is getting permission to do interviews and take photographs inside malls while doing stories such as the annual “Black Friday” roundup on shopping conditions the day after Thanksgiving.

  • Anonymous

    I went to the local ralphs and there were about half a dozen cop cars arresting someone in the parking lot and I snapped a few pictures with the digital camera I always carry with me. A cop came over and started asking me “what are the pictures for” “what are you going to do with them” “are you with the press?” “do you live in this community” Since I was outside in a public parking lot and was in no way interfering with what the cops were doing, I was a little pissed at his tone of questioning and told him flat out that it didn’t matter what I was doing with the pictures, I had every right to take them, and unless I was mistaken, this was still America and no one has cancelled the constitiution or the bill of rights. Sounds like someone is being a little paranoid. So I looked up the site which had the photographers rights outlined and sent him a copy along with copies of the photos.



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