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Selfie Sticks -- Love Them, Hate Them, Ban Them?

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on May 05, 2015 9:57 AM

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

The topic for today: selfie sticks. How do you feel about them -- positive, negative or indifferent?

Let's backtrack a bit first with a brief history lesson.

Long ago, actually more than a century ago, self portraits usually were created when an artist looked into a mirror and then attempted to paint his or her likeness on a canvas.

That was well and good, perhaps -- until photography came into being. The early versions of cameras were quite unwieldy, so if someone wanted a photo of him or herself, generally someone else would use the camera to take that photograph of the intended subject.

Fast forward a bit closer in time to now. Cameras became ever smaller and easier to use, to the point now that practically every smart phone is camera-ready at all times. And with these cameras no longer requiring the expense and time delay of film development, people can take photos willy-nilly of anything while on the go, and specifically, photos of themselves.

Of course, taking a photo of yourself (and perhaps others in the same photo with the backdrop of your choosing) requires holding your arm out as far as possible while trying as hard as you can to capture all that you can in the photo. But a human arm can only extend so far, so what can be included in the photo is limited, right?

Yes, until the recent advent of the selfie stick, which brings us current to the initial question posed in this piece.

First, what is a selfie stick? To the uninitiated, it is a small, compactable baton that can hold your smart phone on the far end. When fully extended, it can go out several feet past the human arm to take photos when its button is pressed on the handle. The selfie stick therefore allows a person to take a photograph of him or herself with others without concerns about cutting off the intended scope of the photo because a person's arm is just too short.

So, is this a good thing? Well, sure, in terms of allowing people to take these kinds of photos (and videos too). And probably most of us have seen some fairly interesting and perhaps entertaining photos that have been taken this way.

On the other hand, selfie sticks can get in the way of others. If you are at a beautiful spot or sporting or other event, do you want your view cluttered up with selfie sticks? Probably not. And do we want to further enable the self-glorification practices of other people? That might be their business, but still ... And, there actually can be an issue of safety. It is possible a person could turn around in a fairly crowded area only to be rewarded with someone else's selfie stick hitting him or her in the eye.

Maybe because of some of these reasons, Apple reportedly banned the use of selfie sticks at its June developers' conference, WWDC. These sticks also reportedly have been banned from other public venues and events, like the National Gallery in London, the Kentucky Derby, the Coachella music festival, Disney World, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Palace of Versailles, and English Premier League soccer stadiums.

Bottom line: Selfie sticks likely are here to stay, and while banned in some locations, they otherwise have their own time and should be used with discretion so as not to interfere with the enjoyment of others.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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