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Poster 7 is a source of much argument/confusion amongst the online Auditing/Frauditing communities. YouTubers bring their cameras into US post offices and video the employees, citizens, walls, etc., and then post their videos to YouTube.

Photographs for News, Advertising, or Commercial Purposes

Photographs for news purposes may be taken in entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors, or auditoriums when used for public meetings except where prohibited by official signs or Security Force personnel or other authorized personnel or a federal court order or rule. Other photographs may be taken only with the permission of the local Postmaster or installation head.

Does a US YouTuber have the right to video record in a US post office without obtaining permission, and post the video to YouTube?


I have been asked to expand.

  1. Does Poster 7 have any legal strength.
  2. Are YouTubers news or other (commercial, etc.)?
  3. Does "when used for public meetings " apply only to auditoriums, or also lobbies, foyers, etc.?
  4. Does "except where..." apply only to auditoriums, or also lobbies, foyers, etc.?
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  • I would like to address some other answers and comments here. --- Post offices are sensitive in that you might catch on tape private information such as *Alice got mail from Bob*7 The problem with this statement is the responsibility of the postal workers to keep your private information safe falls on them to keep it hidden. Not by violating the first amendment. --- Clearly it is illegal (like any activity inside postal property) once the "authorized personnel" tell you to stop. The problem here is your definition of authorized personnel. It's not the clerk or the postmaster or anyone else loc Dec 29, 2023 at 6:01
  • I say you have a right to take photos in public spaces. This could be argued as part of freedom of the Press. However, you don't have a right to take a postal worker's time on non-postal business. If some "code" or law is made that prohibits that freedom, you should fight it. Dec 30, 2023 at 21:56

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This has yet to be specifically decided in the federal courts. The Post Office can set "rules of conduct" for its facilities. Prohibiting photographing is plainly a restriction on one's First Amendment rights, and it is established beyond question that a government cannot issue / enforce a blanket prohibition of public photographing. Someone would have to take a case to court to determine whether this limitation on First Amendment rights passes the relevant level of judicial scrutiny. The rationale (as set forth by the USPS) is that such photographing may be "disruptive".

One can perhaps analogize the right to film police with a new-found right to film post office, following from a right to public oversight over the government. DHS gives general guidance of its own (with a pile of redacted stuff), directing you to 41 CFR 102-74.420. Permission is thus required, until the courts find that to be an unconstitutional restriction (I would not expect there to be such a finding). But it is not unthinkable that the courts could at some point so rule.

The YouTube aspect of the question is irrelevant: if you have the right, you have the right, and it doesn't derive from nor is it blocked by an intent to distribute on YouTube.

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  • Might there be a right to film but not a right to use footage in an advertisement? Say one that implies an endorsement or your product by the USPS? Feb 11, 2022 at 19:09
  • Yeah, there is no hope for claiming a right to imply that the USPS endorses a product. That's why the regulation separates commercial and non-commercial photography, though both require permission.
    – user6726
    Feb 11, 2022 at 19:28
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    Post offices are sensitive in that you might catch on tape private information such as *Alice got mail from Bob*7
    – Trish
    Feb 11, 2022 at 20:01
  • "Prohibiting photographing is plainly a restriction on one's First Amendment rights" It's a "time, place, or manner" restriction that is content-neutral, so the government has a string case for it not being unconstiutional. Dec 30, 2023 at 3:56
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Short answer: Poster 7 is essentially a reiteration of "the regulations" and thus "the law". As for photography, "it depends".

  1. Poster 7 is nearly word-for-word identical to the regulations in 39 CFR § 232.1, enacted in 1972, by the powers delegated to the Postal Service by Congress in 39 USC § 401. "Nearly".

  2. The regulation refers to "news purposes", not "commercial use". When is photographing a person in a post office lobby actually a qualified "news purpose"? If the photographer tells people it's for his or her "personal use", does that defeat the claim that it is a "news purpose"? Clearly it is illegal (like any activity inside postal property) once the "authorized personnel" tell you to stop, risking up to a $10,000 fine and 30 days in federal prison, in addition to the immediate state trespassing charge and penalties.

  3. The list of authorized "news purposes" photography locations ends with "auditoriums when used for public meetings". If they meant to include only "lobbies ... when used for public meetings", they should have put a comma in front of "when". Otherwise the succeeding limitation grammatically and logically only applies to "auditoriums". A court may apply the rules of statutory interpretations, such as noscitur a sociis, differently.

  4. Unlike Poster 7, the regulation 39 CFR § 232/1(i) and the original regulation at 37 FR 24347, Nov 16, 1972, have the limitations listed in "Except as prohibited by official signs [etc]..." BEFORE the term "photographs for news purposes may be taken [in authorized public areas]...", rather than after. This would seem to more clearly state that photographs for "news purposes" are permitted unless specifically prohibited (by signs, orders, instructions), subject to "permission" for "other photographs".

As for relevant "court" interpretation, I found a federal opinion that comes very close to answering this question, at least as related to an alleged violation of a "First Amendment right" to PLAY a recorded message in the post office lobby, after someone did so, in violation of 39 CFR § 232, refused to leave when told, and was arrested for trespassing. It's not even binding precedent in New York, but at least it shows that court's thinking.

Held: Claims dismissed against US Post Office in lawsuit for damages and injunction arising from alleged illegal trespassing arrest. (among other things).

In short: "A First Amendment claim that the government is impermissibly restricting a speaker's access to government property is controlled by the now-familiar tripartite forum analysis.... The extent to which the Government can control access depends on the nature of the relevant forum. ... Generally speaking, when the state reserves property for its `specific official uses,' it remains nonpublic in character. ... There is little question that the Postal Service is essentially a commercial enterprise.... [I]t is also well settled that the government need not permit all forms of speech on property that it owns and controls. ... The court further finds that the interior of the Jordan, NY Post Office is a non-public forum with respect to which reasonable restrictions on speech may be imposed... In nonpublic fora, the government has wide latitude in regulation of speech, it may even be content-based as long as it is "reasonable" and "not an effort to suppress the speaker's activity due to disagreement with the speaker's view." [internal Supreme Court and 2d Cir. case citations omitted]

See, e.g., Moore v US Postal Service, in the NDNY federal district court, 01-CV-1609 Jan 13, 2005, where Mr Moore was "trespassed" from the post office and arrested by local police, after violations of several subsections in 39 CFR 232 inside the post office lobby, although not specifically 232.1(i) regarding "photography".

This information is only my personal view of this case excerpt and is not in any way intended as "legal advice", let alone a complete analysis of the actual issue of post office photography. If someone finds a contradictory case in another federal court, let alone the US Supreme Court, let us know! FWIW, USPS or DHS policy statements about whether or not to enforce rules like this are not "law" and thus irrelevant to the underlying question.

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Let me help you out here.

  1. Legal weight is absolute. The Poster is pretty much an exact copy of the actual Code of Federal Regulations. 39 CFR § 232.1 - Conduct on postal property.

  2. Yes. A journalist is anyone who disseminates the information to the public.

  3. Auditoriums only.

  4. That's a tough one. I've never seen a sign in any public area prohibiting it.

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It is NOT illegal to film in a post office provided that you are filming in the public places. You can film outside in the public access areas and in the public access areas inside of the post office. Though people get upset when they see a camera you don't have to get their permission to film them because it is considered a public place. And you CANNOT be trespassed from a public place and if you are trespassed that is grounds for a lawsuit because it goes against your 1st amendment right. As far as posting on YouTube in is perfectly legal as long as there is no personal information that can be seen on the video, which, with the way filming a post office is done there is NO way personal information could be seen because the screen face the PUBLIC EMPLOYEES. And you CANNOT be convicted for being in public or a public place.

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    Then how do you explain the outcome in Moore v. USPS?
    – phoog
    Mar 8, 2023 at 21:55
  • Should Moore had been filming, that is conducting the lawful business of overseeing the actions of public officials, perhaps Moore v. USPS would have had a different outcome on the trespassing. There is also a lot more that's different, particularly Moore's threat to the safety of postal workers. Apr 12, 2023 at 1:07
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    You do not have a "first amendment right" to film in every possible place that has public access. Ask the people convicted (March 2023) of federal crimes for filming inside the lobby of a Social Security Administration office in violation of the rules, signs and instructions of the guards. The violation was based on the regulations that require permission of the federal tenant to photograph their spaces (other than entry, foyer and lobby, or where prohibited by signs).
    – Upnorth
    Jul 9, 2023 at 15:06
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This is misleading. The code of federal regulations gives the postmaster discretion. And you may be prohibited from filming customers, employees and postal items. It's silly but it's codified in the federal regs.

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    – Community Bot
    Mar 10, 2023 at 6:51
  • Why is it "silly" to regulate activities that may interfere with the business purpose of the federal agency? It's open to the public, but only if they follow the rules. If you want to photograph people "in public," then you should stay outside where it actually is "in public", and not on regulated federal property.
    – Upnorth
    Jul 9, 2023 at 15:11

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