Band's security guards seize photojournalist's memory card

MINNESOTA — Ching Fung had worked for the student newspaper at St. Cloud State University for less than a year when the popular, Grammy Award-winning rock band Evanescence came to town.

The University Chronicle sent Fung to photograph the Feb. 20 concert. Another staff member told Fund there were no restrictions on photography at the event. 

But when Fung arrived and began shooting, he was told that photojournalists could only take photos during the band’s first three songs. Fung said that he stopped after the first three songs, but during the fifth song, he said he began to take pictures of the audience. 

It was at that point that Fung said he was approached by the band’s security detail and escorted from the concert.

Fung said security officers demanded that he hand over the digital camera’s memory card and threatened to have him arrested if he did not comply. Chung offered to leave the concert, to delete all of the photos taken after the third song and even to delete the entire contents of the card. Fearing arrest, Fung handed over the card. His jacket and bag were searched, and he was told to leave.

Eric O’Link, editor of the University Chronicle, said he went to the concert hall after the performance to retrieve the $70 memory card, but his request was denied.

A spokesman for the band’s management firm defended the actions of the security personnel.

“We stand by our commitment to supporting the press,” said a Wind-Up Records spokesman, who refused to give his name. “In this instance, a student photographer was taking pictures knowingly when they were not supposed to.”

O’Link said he filed a complaint about the incident with the St. Cloud State University Public Safety Department.

The newspaper’s adviser contacted the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, which wrote a letter to Steve Karas, senior vice president of publicity and video for Wind-Up Records.

The letter condemned the security personnel’s actions.

“Not only was it inappropriate for your security officer to take the photo card of student journalist Ching Fung,” the letter states, “it was probably illegal.”

In addition, the letter states that “while it is unfortunate that the photographer inadvertently violated the conditions made with the music label, it does not excuse the actions of the security officer. A simple discussion about the use or destruction of the images would have been appropriate. Seizure never is.”

Wind-Up Records returned the memory card to the University Chronicle on Feb. 26. O’Link said the card appeared to be undamaged, and Fung said no photographs were deleted.

Todd Stricker, the president of the National Press Photographers Association, said preparation is the most important thing photojournalists can do to avoid a similar situation.

“It’s important that the students understand what their rights are … because once you get into that situation, it’s really too late to make a decision on how you’re going to react,” Stricker said. 

Stricker said the “three-song rule” is fairly common, but it is important to know specifically what restrictions are in place before showing up to an event. He said that while some concerts have the three-song rule, others allow photography for one song or even only three minutes.

Alicia Calzada, NPPA’s advocacy chairwoman, said that at private events such as concerts, it is important to respect the guidelines that are presented. 

Stricker emphasized that journalists should know their rights and communicate with their editors and advisers.