Fake DHS "photography license" for fake no-photos laws


114 Responses to “Fake DHS "photography license" for fake no-photos laws”

  1. KeithIrwin says:

    Out of curiosity, why would I need to put my name and address on this? It already has a name and address. It’s not like I want to identify myself to the cops upon request.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m also in favor of a modified version of this card, one that doesn’t reference any real government entities. #33′s got the right idea. Make it look real, but reference no real body.

    I feel that EFF / ACLU “endorsements” would not fool cops, they know who the ACLU is, generally despise them, and wouldn’t care to respect its alleged authority anyways. Furthermore, probably having BoingBoing / EFF / ACLU endorsed passes of some type probably presents a liability problem for these orgs. I don’t want any of them getting in trouble.

    So yeah, I have no design skills, but hook me up with a Franklin Mint Photography License if you do!

  3. Anonymous says:

    lol if you look very close at the seals..they say U.S OFFICE OF HOMELAND INSECURITY….haha I DONT THINK THE REAL SEAL SAYS THAT

  4. Anonymous says:


    Doesn’t mention DHS specifically, but:

    Whoever, except with the written permission of the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, knowingly uses the words “Federal Bureau of Investigation” or the initials “F.B.I.”, or any colorable imitation of such words or initials, in connection with any advertisement, circular, book, pamphlet or other publication, play, motion picture, broadcast, telecast, or other production, in a manner reasonably calculated to convey the impression that such advertisement, circular, book, pamphlet or other publication, play, motion picture, broadcast, telecast, or other production, is approved, endorsed, or authorized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; …

    Shall be punished as follows: a corporation, partnership, business trust, association, or other business entity, by a fine under this title; an officer or member thereof participating or knowingly acquiescing in such violation or any individual violating this section, by a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

  5. mildweed says:

    I’m also in favor of a modified version of this card, one that doesn’t reference any real government entities. #33′s got the right idea. Make it look real, but reference no real body.

    I feel that EFF / ACLU “endorsements” would not fool cops, they know who the ACLU is, generally despise them, and wouldn’t care to respect its alleged authority anyways. Furthermore, probably having BoingBoing / EFF / ACLU endorsed passes of some type probably presents a liability problem for these orgs. I don’t want any of them getting in trouble.

    So yeah, I have no design skills, but hook me up with a Franklin Mint Photography License if you do!

  6. Anonymous says:


    (a) Whoever, in a circumstance described in subsection (c) of this section—
    (1) knowingly and without lawful authority produces an identification document, authentication feature, or a false identification document…

    shall be punished as provided in subsection (b) of this section.

  7. jjasper says:

    Well, if the police are lying about your rights as a photographer, no one busts them. Still, I think encouraging people to do something illegal as a means of protest ought to at least come with the information that “Yes this is illegal, and here are the penalties” instead of “Who knows if it’s legal to carry one of these — probably about as legal as taking away your camera and erasing your memory card for snapping a pic on the subway.”

    It’s immature, irresponsible, and inconsiderate of the consequences to others.

  8. dragonfrog says:

    Now, as long as the document is clearly not identification, but a license to do something (for which no license is necessary because everyone is allowed to do it), that seems more likely to be kosher. You could even some fine print in there that says “Photography License not valid without Government-issued identification”, which would serve the dual purpose of spelling out that it’s not ID, and of making it seem more acceptable to authoritarian ignoramuses – by giving them an opportunity to cross-check your ID with the license, you offer them a way out of the situation that leaves both their self-importance and your camera intact.

    I know Saskatchewan used to have your driving license be a separate document from your provincial ID – the license was proof that Joe Schmoe was allowed to drive, and the ID was proof that you were Joe Schmoe. I kind of think some US states might also do that, but I don’t know. It makes sense, right – just because your driving license is expired, it doesn’t affect your identity.

    Typically people just put the two back-to-back in a clear plastic sleeve, but the license was still a separate document, and clearly not ID.

  9. MadMolecule says:

    Salsaman: IAAL. See my comments #46 and #56. Based on comment #54, I’ll take a guess that Jonathan V may be a lawyer as well.

    And incidentally, I was partially wrong in #46: It’s not legal to create or possess a fake ID, never mind present it as real to a government agent.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Why not just use Webcam for PPC [http://www.zone1.de/] (assuming you have a nice WM phone with a decent camera), and avoid all the drama?

    “I can’t erase the pictures – they’ve already been automatically uploaded to a server over which I have no control. Sorry.”

    Or just hold your tongue and let them think you’ve erased them.

    Works for me.

  11. Wordguy says:

    @ #20 Keith, you need to put your name on it to match your other fake IDs.

  12. shadowfirebird says:


    Printing Monopoly money isn’t illegal, though. …Oh, wait, it’s probably breach of copyright. Damn.

  13. Anonymous says:

    If this is for aviation and transportation photographers, you are doing ALL OF US a disservice! This will simply make DHS and other officials more suspicious that we are trying to do MORE than our LEGAL rights (photography from public locations, etc.) and attempting to conceal more sinister motives. It’s probably illegal and I’d bet a good deal of my own aviation photography resources that if an officer is wise enough to recognize it’s a fake, you’ll lose more than your photography equipment. Best wishes, but don’t count on them…

  14. Cpt. Tim says:

    when you get hassled illegally there’s a good chance you can sue. The officer might get punished. But at the end of the day he goes home. Its been a problem for NYC, and the city is getting kind of pissed at their law enforcement.

    when you use this illegally, well. Have fun.

    Not all boing boing users read the comments. Sweet christ please update the description so less intelligent readers don’t try this stunt.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Just make it say Homeboy Security.


  16. Drew from Zhrodague says:

    I’d love something like this too, but probably not with the federal logos on it. If it looks professional, printed on plastic, with something generic like “Press Pass: Unrestricted” or even “Photography License” would be sufficient.

    I’ve been harassed blocks from my house for taking pictures of local buildings. Bruiser security guard came out of a building into the street to threaten me with police, saying the local hospital was a high security area. I am not so good at explaining myself, which usually makes things far worse. I also take pictures of freaking everything.

    How much do those ID card printers and materials cost?

  17. SamSam says:

    I would think this would be much more legal, and have much the same effect, if it:

    * Replaced “Photography license” with “Photographer”
    * Removed all references to Homeland Security.

    Then all it’s saying is the truth — that you are a photographer — but all the official-looking stuff, particularly the “A1 – Unrestricted,” look sufficiently official to make the average rent-a-cop shut up.

    Actually, probably 95% of rent-a-cops wouldn’t shut up, because they believe that their power is always more than yours, but these same 95% would phone in the “Homeland Security” version, and then you’ll be in much bigger trouble.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Actually, you can print your own Monopoly money. Hasbro has made PDF files available:

    Andy Ihnatko had an article in Make magazine 5 on getting in as a press photographer. It is more than a fake pass. You have to dress the part. The same tricks might help a little with the cops. In Boston, blinking lights can get you hauled away. So if you want to take pictures, don’t be obvious. Play with your camera. Shoot from the hip. My camera has a movable LCD.
    That is not the point here, I know. I just don’t like to challenge authority directly. But I will get my picture.

  19. chutotoro says:

    The solution to this cop/photography problem is simple economics. If the cop oversteps their authority, then let them do it, and sue their department’s pants off in the resulting civil action.

    Once enough departments have been hit with expensive civil rights lawsuits, then it will become in their own best interest to make sure their cops know their place. Make their actions hurt their bottom line, and they will change their own behavior.

  20. Max Kennerly says:

    As creative and hilarious an idea this is, I’d be awful careful about putting it into practice. Most states (all that I know of) have an “unsworn falsification to authorities” statute which makes it at least a misdemeanor to submit to a government agent documents known to be false.

  21. xaxa says:

    #1 “I understand London has a problem with this”
    You might like to try a news source other than BoingBoing to balance your opinion on London/the UK before jumping to conclusions.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Well it’s illegal in Virginia; Probably other states too.

    COV 18.2-204.2. Facsimile or manufacture, sale, etc., or possession of fictitious, simulated official license or identification.

    * It is illegal to possess, produce or distribute a falsified document that can be mistaken as an official government document.
    * Violators face Class 1 misdemeanor charges for the sale or production of such ID and Class 2 misdemeanor charges for possession of such ID.


  23. airship says:

    Much better to print out and carry a copy of the Photographer’s Rights PDF:


  24. Dave Rattigan says:

    Surely the legality of presenting a cop with a document that falsely claims to be authorized by the Department of Homeland Security is a no-brainer?

  25. Anonymous says:

    I love that the card has a religion field. Nice touch.

  26. Anonymous says:

    US Law says it’s illegal if:
    “the identification document, authentication feature, or false identification document is or appears to be issued by or under the authority of the United States or a sponsoring entity of an event designated as a special event of national significance or the document-making implement is designed or suited for making such an identification document, authentication feature, or false identification document”

    so if this were redone to be from some fictional Photography Agency rather than from the government (kind of like the MUNI one), it would be perfectly legal.

  27. samsumner says:


    On “May 15, 2009 2:17 AM” you posted:
    {Done! Thanks for the link.} concerning the DHS Photography License.
    As the link has been removed, could you PLEASE e-mail me either a copy of the file, or a link to it (if one is available).
    I don’t want to use it as seen, but would like to use the template to make some changes.

  28. Anonymous says:

    C’mon lets see one that says Terrorist Photographer. Now that person has balls!

  29. Anonymous says:

    I would think this fake ID would now be fairly useless as it has made the blogs……….

  30. Anonymous says:

    You won’t be shot for presenting this to the US Gestapo, amirite?

  31. andygates says:

    Yeah, but this is perfect for mall cops. No power, no training, just attitude. A Reverse Double Kafka like this, it’s too sweet not to try.

    I’ve sicced my local photoshop monkeys on making a pretty Met one for when the traffic wardens get uppity next time I’m in London. >:)

  32. Shlepzig says:

    From a legality standpoint this document could potentially land you in deep trouble. The likelihood that it will land you in trouble depends largely on the circumstances, and how big a stink you make, and how big a stink the cop makes, and what a potential prosecuter thinks about the amount of fiber he has been eating recently.

    This is a good idea, a card that presents the same gravitas (very official looking) but has been designed specifically with fraud laws in mind would probably be safest, and totally awesome. Which says in fine print it is not for identification purposes, and refers to a bogus US department of photographers or such. Simply stating that this person has the legal right to photograph public buildings in public areas under the authority of the federal government (that’s absolutely true).

    Clever and industrious mutants could cook up a fully convincing web-site with registries and everything for officers of the law to verify your creditials.

    It would be a more involved scam, but would probably serve the very important purpose of protecting citizens from imaginary laws using an imaginary ID which simply states we have constitutional rights our well-meaniing jack booted officers of peace have forgotten about.


  33. Church says:

    I would alter it. This is a bit too close to claiming to be a DHS official. A simple “U.S. Photography License” should suffice.

    That said, if anyone needs OCR A, you can get it here:

  34. Anonymous says:

    This bad idea can easily be modified into a good one.

    I would do this if I was in the states, canada or britain, but I’m not. So, it’s up to someone in this discussion to do it. Or maybe a bunch of you.

    Someone here should create a civil, private organisation in your country that issues a license to take photographs.
    Your organisation would become a private corporation chartered to issue it’s members the right to take photographs in public places.

    Set up a website, a registry and an printing service. Your modest costs will be covered by the people who purchase licenses.

    Upon some kind of registration, issue a license to take photos in public. Have an agreement that goes something like this:

    “You hereby agree to stay within the limits of the law when taking photographs.”
    Failure to uphold the contract could result in, I dunno, lets say the loss of the right to bear your certificate of license.

    Just because someone doesn’t have your bit of paper doesn’t mean that they don’t have a legal right to photograph. It just means that they don’t have the right to carry your bit of paper.

    If you are questioned by a law officer, no deception is neccessary. Upon being asked for your license to take photo’s, you can show them one.

    I’m sure that this idea is very rough, and could do with some polishing.

    But why not do it?

  35. David Carroll says:

    Andygates #27.

    Once your photo$hop monkeys are done, could you share it as an un-flattened PSD (or GIMP XCF) file?

    I don’t have easy access to Adobe Illustrator that think I need to really go to town on the provided EPS file in this post’s link.

  36. airship says:

    #23, Actually Hasbro encourages people to print their own Monopoly money. They even have templates online:


  37. Chevan says:

    Legal issues aside, this is on the wrong side of the plain/ostentatious scale.

    The most important badges and IDS are usually completely boring to look at. Casino employee badges, for instance, take a full background check and are even more conclusive than a driver’s license or state-issued ID. They’re also plain as hell. I’m pretty sure they don’t even have your picture on them.

  38. Anonymous says:

    requesting a mirror of the eps files, cuz links be dead

  39. Anonymous says:

    I love the idea. I’ll keep it with my cat license and my fish license.

  40. kenmce says:

    #54 posted by jonathan_v, May 15, 2009 8:43 AM
    Also, 146.d
    Every person who sells or gives to another a membership card, badge, or other device, where it can be reasonably inferred by the recipient that display of the device will have the result that the law will be enforced less rigorously as to such person than would otherwise be the case is guilty of a misdemeanor.

    jonathan_v, In NY it is normal for an officer to give members of his family 1/4 sized replica badges. You carry the badge so it can be seen as soon as you open your wallet. It changes the entire tone of certain conversations.

  41. Umbriel says:

    Perhaps the EFF or ACLU would be willing to lend their authority and logos to this cause?

  42. Halloween Jack says:

    This is a cute idea that could end up with really horrible consequences for someone, Cory. Making up a fake government agency (preferably one that doesn’t actually claim that they’re part of a real governmental body in a “Franklin Mint” kind of way) might be legal; this, I’m guessing not so much.

  43. oasisob1 says:

    Search for “Press Pass” in your favorite search engine and you will find many websites selling such things as a service. It clearly means nothing, but it makes you look legit.

  44. Anonymous says:

    Maybe “PATRIOT ACT” or “US CONSTITUTIONAL”. I like patriot act, since there isn’t anything in the Patriot Act to forbid photography.

  45. weatherman says:

    I agree with most of the above comments – this is a dangerous trick that might work in some cases, but in most cases will escalate the situation in most cases, and probably create a real criminal liability where none existed before. Any rent-a-cop or real cop who is going to try to take away your camera or stop you from filming something just because they don’t approve of it is certainly not going to hesitate to take you downtown for presenting a fake ID.

    That said I think the same effect could be achieved with a “Constitutional” license that would be defensible on the grounds that the 1st amendment does, in fact, grant an artistic license. You might still end up in the tank overnight, but you’d probably avoid criminal action and you might even get a nice settlement out of it.

  46. dequeued says:

    I love it!

    This makes my day!

    This is the perfect antidote to power-tripping rent-a-cops.

    They want to see papers, even non-existent papers?
    Show it to them!
    What are they going to do? Ask their supervisor on a radio to verify the license number?
    Then they would have to admit that there is no such license required.

  47. Anonymous says:

    The use of federal names & logos is illegal under the US Federal Code.

    Simple possession of this card is a federal crime. In California, breaking any federal statute is a felony.

    Do not make one of these. Nothing but trouble for you.

    Someone mentioned getting a press ID. Your local police dept or sheriff is generally the place to go for these, but they may have requirements to prove you actually work in the industry.

  48. HeartlessMachine says:

    “Perhaps the EFF or ACLU would be willing to lend their authority and logos to this cause?”

    Now THAT’S the best idea I’ve heard all day! I would definitely carry an ACLU-issued photopass.

  49. sswaan says:

    I kind of love this, but I’m too chickenshit to use something like this or even to challenge a security guard, like the ones who just last week told me I had to erase the photos I had just taken of an oil refinery “because of terrorism.” What, you mean like the ones they have on the front page of the company web site??? I did say, “Okay, but will you admit that this is ridiculous?” They didn’t.

  50. Cpt. Tim says:

    i love that people in the comments have been saying this shit is a federal offense in the comments ALL DAY and boing boing still won’t put up a disclaimer

  51. erzatsen says:

    …and now, apparently the document has been taken down.

    that didn’t take long :(

  52. Anonymous says:

    Brilliant. Way better than trying to argue your rights…we all know how well that works.

    I especially like that it has a “religion” attribute. :D

  53. Inkstain says:

    There’s no legal requirement for being a member of the press, so there’s absolutely no requirements for claiming to be a member with a press pass.

    Unfortunately, individual members of the press also have no rights that ordinary citizens don’t have, so there’s no legal advantage to carrying one.

  54. MadMolecule says:

    Attempting to mislead a government officer, even one who is wrongly hassling you, is a very bad idea, folks. Posting this is incredibly irresponsible of BoingBoing, and as for this:

    Who knows if it’s legal to carry one of these….

    I do. It’s perfectly legal to carry one. But it’s not even remotely legal to present it to a cop and pretend it’s real. Again: Even if you’re being wrongly hassled under a law that doesn’t exist, that doesn’t let you show a fake ID to a cop.

    Please, folks, don’t do this.

  55. salsaman says:

    Still waiting for an “IAAL” comment– any attorneys care to weigh in? Lots of speculation, and I personally think it’s too specific in terms of mentioning DHS.

    Seems like this should not be presented to actual law enforcement, but I’d have no problem presenting it to ATM fillers, MUNI fare enforcers, and private security guards.

    1) Use a fictitious agency, or misspell DHS’s full name and use a made up insignia,
    2) Print a disclaimer in (very) fine print,
    3) Print REAL legal information on the back outlining REAL photographers’ rights, such as statutes or precedents which uphold peoples’ right to photography,
    4) Print REAL legal information about the limited rights of private security officers to confiscate cameras or to demand that photos be erased.

    BOTTOM LINE: The best card to have in your wallet is simply that of an actual attorney– if a professional of any kind is trying to violate your rights, have a professional at the ready to protect them.

  56. Mister Moofoo says:

    @Drew from Zhrodague: I think you could get away with a laminated card rather than one of the fancy plastic ID cards, depending on the design.

    Hell, I plan on whipping one up at work sometime soon. Maybe not one l=just like this, but something…

  57. Anonymous says:

    Here’s mine


    Keep in mind, I would NEVER NEVER NEVER give these to a cop, but they make a neat business card. It would get people talking, at least.

  58. nemryn says:

    Arkizzle @24: Yeah, I read the link, and I totally agree that that’s what the law says (once you get through the legalese). It’s just that Pasketti cropped the quote in an amusing fashion: “knowingly possesses an identification document or authentication feature that is … an identification document or authentication feature of the United States”.

    Anyway. The last sentence already implies that this wouldn’t be legal, but it could probably be significantly stronger.

  59. Anonymous says:

    Yes, the ACLU or EFF should sell laminated photography license cards as a fund-raiser. I’d buy one. And it wouldn’t be illegal, because it would be completely accurate and not misleading as to who was making the assertion.

  60. Tdawwg says:

    Agreeing with most above: bullshit surveillance-avoidance kabuki theater is not an appropriate, rational, legal, or productive response to bullshit surveillance kabuki theater. It does present an interesting DIY cracked mirror image of what we’re all decrying, though: lies, opacity, deception, abuse of law. An odd suggestion: fight Big Brother by badly imitating abuses of state power!

  61. Anonymous says:

    3rd and Army, warehouse space, many bands, artist, Hells Angels etc…lived / worked there…

    cops in Paris train station stopped me for photographing a cop with a police dog… looked like a scene from a WWII gulag…

  62. Anonymous says:

    PERMIT not license.

  63. misterfricative says:

    I think you’d be better off flashing a pope card.

    That way you’d probably only get beaten up for taking the piss, as opposed to arrested for fraud.

  64. mjfgates says:

    Everybody’s worrying about whether it’s legal to show one of these, given that it doesn’t exist. Meh, whatever. The real problem here is, if you get bothered by Mr. Annoying Cop and show him this, and he goes away, what happens to the NEXT photographer he bothers? You know, the one who doesn’t have one of these.

  65. Anonymous says:

    I would like to download the files for my own use. Is there no mirror? any links at all?

  66. Anonymous says:

    Reason 683 Why This Is A BAD IDEA: Even though no such license exists, it purports to be a federal document, and would therefore be treated as a fraudulent federal document.

  67. p96 says:

    I think a “Federated Media” Press Pass would sound more official than a “Boing Boing” Press Pass, and be more likely to ease the harassment of the bearer.

    “Boing Boing” would sound too fake to a humorless, uneducated “official”.

  68. nosehat says:

    Done! Thanks for the link. How delightfully Kafka-esque, responding to their bureaucracy with such countermeasures!

    Although, to be honest, I’ve taken plenty of photos in airports, subway stations, um… bus stops… city streets, pretty much anywhere I want, and I’ve never been challenged. I understand London has a problem with this, but perhaps this kind of harassment is still quite rare in the US.

    Well, now I’ll have my card in case I’m challenged.

    But I’ve got an even better idea: what about a “Press Pass”? Can Boing-Boing issue us all a “Journalistic Press Pass” to take photos of police in action? This would have the advantage of being above-board (instead of counterfeit). Also, “Press Pass” is something your average cop is likely to have heard of. Just suggesting! =D

  69. Mithras says:

    IAAL, and this is a really stupid idea. Forging a government-issued ID – whether state or federal – is a felony. And no, misspelling DHS’s full name or putting in disclaimers will not save you. The intent here is to create a document that will deceive police officers into thinking you have a government-issued ID. It doesn’t matter if the forgery is good or bad or would actually fool anyone.

    I also agree with #52. It’s really irresponsible for this post to stay up without updating it to reflect the legal concerns.

  70. Anonymous says:

    It’s a work of art. Presenting it would be (in my mind only) an act of civil disobedience, in protest of laws that don’t even exist. I love it so much.

  71. dw_funk says:

    That ID seems like it’s coming a little close to impersonating a federal officer, which I’m fairly sure is illegal. I’m sure that in some cases, it would work perfectly, but whether this would actually constitute breaking the law or not, there’ll be plenty of cops who will phone this in to the station, especially if it means dealing with some pesky photographer/terrorist.

    I think I like #1′s idea, although it’d really be best if it was set up with some sort of number you could call and get some dull office answering machine. “Hello, you’ve reached Boing Boing. For photography division, press 1,” etc.

  72. Anonymous says:

    Hmmm…all the major news bureaus ask viewers/readers to send in their own photos and/or video footage, such as CNNs I-report (or whatever it’s called)

    Under that heading, aren’t we all press agents for CNN?

    I seem to recall that Auntie Beeb has a upload page, too….

  73. Mithras says:

    I note that Mr. Williams has had the sense to take this thing down off his flickr.

  74. Anonymous says:

    I agree with #2.. it seems to me that you would be turning the problem of taking a photograph into one of being charged with impersonating a federal officer, and at the very least you would be bothered by the federal authorities.

    Looks nice, but not sure its the best thought out of ideas.

  75. Agile Cyborg says:

    I really just want to know why our government is chock full of fucking idiots.

    I mean, the whole damn thing is bursting with apex-grade fools.

    Does a badge make the average American reach down inside himself, rip out and wear the worst jerk he can find?

    I’m wearing a badge walking a beat at the local train station and some emaciated, white-lipped nerd-geek-thing comes up with an iphone I’m pulling the bicep out and flexing the fucker to give him the best shot.

    Am I missing something here, America??!

    Where the FUCK is Davey Crockett?
    Where the FCUK is Abe Lincoln and Pecos Fucking Bill?

    Cops, real and faux, are shivering, scared fucks with absolutely no character what-so-fucking-ever.

    Where are the balls in this country to be a damn human being with a badge??!!

  76. rowensiv says:

    Is there any chance someone could e-mail me this file so I can make some changes to it for a license of my own? That would really be awesome! My email is: rowensiv@aol.com

    Thanks in advance guys!

  77. Anonymous says:

    This is a terrible idea. Far wiser to make up your own Press Pass — and not use any real government names and seals. Probably just as effective, and won’t land you in jail for faking federal ID.

  78. General Specific says:

    Having U.S Department of Homeland Security on the card makes it seem like the cardholder is a government employee. I’d steer well clear of it.

  79. davecity says:

    Thinking it was odd that he lived on 3rd street in SF, i had a hunch. An apparent nod to the Blues Brothers, his address is the same as At&t park, home of the Giants baseball franchise.

  80. Anonymous says:

    How about changing the logo to “Department of Hopeless Stupidity”. Then its not only not actually using the name of a real organization, but clearly falls into the category of satire.

  81. shadowfirebird says:

    Unfortunately, in the UK at least, the idea of a press pass wouldn’t work.

    Police pay more attention, if anything, to press photographers than they do the normal sort.

  82. mesrop says:

    Some one has to clarify the legal status of this. I mean its not stating that you are a federal employee in any way is it??? Its simply a license that appears as if it is issued by DHS. It isn’t stating something that is illegal or misinforming. I mean its like what they do on hidden camera shows by using a fictitious law enforcement departments. I mean movie studios hire retired cops (that wear their old uniforms) as security guards on locations shoots. Wouldn’t that be considered impersonating a police officer???

  83. David Carroll says:

    The next time some rent-a-cop tries to stop me with a BS fake-made-up law, I can counter with this BS fake-made-up-ID that gives me permission. Hopefully his or her head will explode..

    Of course I would never show this ID to a real cop because that is against the law just about everywhere.

  84. arkizzle says:

    Mesrop, even though it doen’t say you are a federal employee, it does purport to be issued by a real body, featuring real logos/seals. So even if you aren’t breaking the law by taking photos, you might be breaking an entirely different law by using ID that pretends to be issued by the government and uses their registered marks.

    So, fraud or trademark infringment :)

  85. Anonymous says:

    Someone is gonna have a vist from the federal swat team. Someone made a facsimile of a purported government ID with intent to commit fraud (even though with harmless intentions) and deceive officials. Impersonation of a Federal Officer. Too late to withdraw, it’s on the net and somebody is toast. I’d like to defend the case but I’m a continent away. As they say in the Navy, stand by for the ram! As Mister T said: “I pity the poor fool!”

  86. Rickyneck says:

    First, I would like to thanks this link, but editing in “photography liecense” by yourself is illegal. cops can arrest you for illegal work.

  87. Anonymous says:

    I have had the experience of using My US Federal badge (NOAA) with several cops, one time as an excuse to be taking picture of the local subway however they still wanted me to hit the road.

    For one if you have any kind of federal ID you had to go through a background check and your name is in a cop’s computer almost all cruisers have them, and it shows up right way. so if you do use a fake id beware they can tell right way if it is real or not

  88. johnnyaction says:

    #1′s idea is super awesome cool happy fun time material. Ideally Boing Boing would hook up with a badge printing service.

    There are other commercial services out there that offer press badges that are official even if the barrier to entry of getting one is $50.

    If half profit was going to eff or some such I’d sign up in a heartbeat.

  89. shadowfirebird says:

    Is it illegal to produce a fake license when there is no such thing as a license, though?

    It clearly can’t be forgery because the original document does not exist; it’s fictional.

    You’re not impersonating anyone or claiming that you have special powers, because it clearly says “license” — and in any case you are giving yourself the right to do something that you had the right to do, anyway.

    In the UK, though, if you sort of squint and look sideways, it might be seen as fraud. Fraud isn’t about what it says on the card, but what your intent is in showing it.

    IANAL, though.

  90. Anonymous says:

    i disagree with the whole idea.

    by playing by made up rules you only make them more real and concrete and likely to become real laws. whether or not you got away with it other citizens watching would assume they saw a real incident involving real laws and photographer identification and come to accept that kind of thing readily when they are stopped someday from taking pics in a public place. rent-a-swine or real donutholes who pull that crap will only feel more justified to do it more often in the future. so even if you get away with it everyone loses.

    the thing to do is refuse to participate with bullshit in any form. take a stand and dont play their games.

  91. tordr says:

    If using department of homeland security logo makes it illegal because it pretends to come from the government. Then how about issuing a ID from the office of photography licences or something like that.

  92. r0b0 says:

    Why does it say “peace officer” on the top?

  93. Brother Phil says:

    if you go to http://bighugelabs.com/flickr/badge.php

    you can do yourself a Flickr photographer ID.

  94. Pasketti says:

    It’s fraud.

    IANAL, but see:


    “knowingly possesses an identification document or authentication feature that is OR APPEARS TO BE an identification document or authentication feature of the United States” (emphasis mine)

  95. Anonymous says:

    How about the EFF or ACLU produce a “photography” rights card that looks sort of like an id card but simply informs of rights to photograph. If you have a particularly dumb rent-a-cop he may back down, and if you have a particularly smart cop you may teach him a little. the middle of the road guys weren’t gonna listen to the fake id anyway :)

  96. arkizzle says:


    it doesn’t matter what the bit of paper says you are allowed to do, it’s that you are reproducing government-issued trademarks / designs, and tightly controlled ones (I’d imagine) at that.

    Fraud isn’t about what it says on the card, but what your intent is in showing it.

    Tangentially (eg. not strictly fraud); printing money is illegal, whether you were planning on spending it or not.

    I’d have to go with Tordr, to be completely in the clear (eg. not making more trouble for yourself than the original photography did) you’d have to do this with the permission of the named body, or make one up.

    I’d imagine the photographers associations would possibly back a scheme like this. Or better, go with the BoingBoing press pass mentioned above.

  97. ReidFleming says:

    @12 – It says to present it to a peace officer on demand. The same language is used for all sorts of stuff.

    @13 – It might be better to create a unique “department” for this document, then? One could also make sure this document made no reference to the “United States” I suppose.

  98. Anonymous says:

    If the EFF creates a permit under a non-profit for a fundraiser. I’ll buy a couple. So will the photography groups that I belong too.
    I’m sure they can make it legal to use. No real department, no offical logos.

    In fact, wouldnt this be a form of protesting?

  99. arkizzle says:

    R0b0, yeah, that phrase always grates with me too.. “peace officer”.

    Blatant false advertising.


  100. Anonymous says:

    IANAL but I am a cop. Carrying something like this is stupid and constitutes possession of a forged instrument in – more than likely – all 50 states. I do know it’s a felony offense in New York State. This would be an absolutely ground-ball arrest for any cop. The only missing would be your written and signed confession to seal the deal.

    If you are really that concerned about being arrested for non-existent antiterrorism photography laws then I certainly cannot fathom why you would present a feloniously forged instrument to a law enforcement officer, because the laws against that are most certainly very existent.

  101. fatcat1111 says:

    What is a press pass anyway?

  102. curtis says:

    Regarding the legality, I doubt that anyone could say for certain that this ~wasn’t~ printed by the DHS, knowing how convoluted that agency is.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Anonymous with the 263 character confirmation URL,

      Yes, it’s a nightmare. We’re trying to figure out a way to fix it, but for now, it’s what the system does.

  103. Anonymous says:

    Matthew Williams has a link in the article wrong. The page he points to for Bert Krages tells you where to buy a book with the name he gave. There is nothing to download and print, as was suggested. Mr Krages has another page with a pamphlet called “The Photographer’s Right” that you can download and print. It is at:
    There is no link to the pamphlet on the page mentioned. I found it by going to google and following a couple of levels of links. Since it was not obvious, I thought I should point it out here.

    I won’t print one of the ID cards, but it is a cute idea and makes a good point.

    I would have commented on Mr Williams site, but it is too much trouble to create an account on an individual blog just to comment. I have a boingboing account, but just choose not to use it, usually.
    Good day

  104. Keneke says:

    Aside from the “impersonating a federal officer” comments, I’d say that something with a state’s name on it would probably make more sense that something offered by Homeland Security.

    I mean, if believability is what you’re going for here.

  105. andygates says:

    #37 Rentagoons aren’t government officers, they only think they are.

  106. jonathan_v says:

    This is absolutely illegal and will result in fines and jail time.

    It’s also incredibly stupid.
    Incredibly fucking stupid.

    Presenting it is one offense like #37 wrote.
    However manufacture and even possession are also offenses.

    Even though its a novelty, you’re creating/forging a fake document and presenting it as valid id from a federal agency. Even if you wrote “novelty” on it, case law shows that you would be prosecuted.

    This is commonly called something like “Manufacture, Sale, Or Possession of Fictitious, Simulated Official License or Identification”.

    In some states its a misdemeanor. In others its a felony.

    Just change “Department of Homeland Security” to “Association of Licensed Photographers” or something like that, so you’re not implying that it’s a government id. Then you’re fine. But when you imply that its Government issued, you are clearly braking the law.

    Sample Laws:

    COV 18.2-204.2. Facsimile or manufacture, sale, etc., or possession of fictitious, simulated official license or identification.

    It is illegal to possess, produce or distribute a falsified document that can be mistaken as an official government document.
    Violators face Class 1 misdemeanor charges for the sale or production of such ID and Class 2 misdemeanor charges for possession of such ID.


    Penal Code section 529.5

    (a) Every person who manufactures, sells, offers for sale,
    or transfers any document, not amounting to counterfeit, purporting
    to be a government-issued identification card or driver’s license,
    which by virtue of the wording or appearance thereon could reasonably
    deceive an ordinary person into believing that it is issued by a
    government agency, and who knows that the document is not a
    government-issued document, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable
    by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine
    not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both the fine and
    (b) Any person who, having been convicted of a violation of
    subdivision (a), is subsequently convicted of a violation of
    subdivision (a), is punishable for the subsequent conviction by
    imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by a fine
    not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both the fine and
    (c) Any person who possesses a document described in subdivision
    (a) and who knows that the document is not a government-issued
    document is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less
    than one thousand dollars ($1,000) and not more than two thousand
    five hundred dollars ($2,500). The misdemeanor fine shall be imposed
    except in unusual cases where the interests of justice would be
    served. The court may allow an offender to work off the fine by
    doing community service. If community service work is not available,
    the misdemeanor shall be punishable by a fine of up to one thousand
    dollars ($1,000), based on the person’s ability to pay.
    (d) If an offense specified in this section is committed by a
    person when he or she is under 21 years of age, but is 13 years of
    age or older, the court also may suspend the person’s driving
    privilege for one year, pursuant to Section 13202.5 of the Vehicle

    Also, 146.d
    Every person who sells or gives to another a membership card,
    badge, or other device, where it can be reasonably inferred by the
    recipient that display of the device will have the result that the
    law will be enforced less rigorously as to such person than would
    otherwise be the case is guilty of a misdemeanor.

  107. nemryn says:

    @13: What’s the rest of that quote? If you knowingly present an identification document that actually is an identification document, it’s fraud?

  108. mistersquid says:

    If you’re clever enough to print out a fake id and present it as identification to a law enforcement officer, you deserve what comes next.

    What? Some of you are genuinely wondering if such a thing is illegal? Why yes, Virginia, as a matter of fact it is.

    It is worthwhile to note that State statutes may prohibit false statements and/or the use of false identification cards. Interviews with State alcohol law enforcement officials confirm our legal analysis: a statute that prohibits the use of false statements includes by inference the use of a false identification card. In other words, presenting a false identification card is equivalent to making a false statement.

    I wonder if it’s illegal in the US to use a web site to encourage people to break the law?

  109. catbeller says:

    If you can protest in some fashion, it’s illegal.
    If they want to make you a criminal, it’s legal.
    Besides writing whatever laws they require, the judges are on their side. No win, ever.

  110. The Life Of Bryan says:

    First, misspelling the name of the agency is one of the ways we spot fake IDs where I work. Two days ago a dude had a moderately convincing driver’s license except that “Department of Motor Vehicles” wasn’t capitalized.

    Second, ideas like this make me glad we have ID card printers on hand.

  111. arkizzle says:

    Nemryn re:#13,

    follow the link..

  112. CrispFlows says:

    Here’s an Ehow on getting an press pass

    Getting an Press pass

    Does not open in new window.

  113. MadMolecule says:

    Andygates, the original post says, “In the event you’re stopped by overzealous law enforcement or security officials attempting to enforce fictitious laws…”

    Catbeller: Surely you can understand why it’s important to have laws prohibiting fake IDs? Consider for a moment what would happen if no such laws were on the books.

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