Exclusive: Viral subway string quartet was illegally filmed

Exclusive: Viral subway string quartet was illegally filmed


norman lebrecht

December 22, 2014

We can now name the string quartet on a New York subway station that has been getting lots of plays today.

It was violinist Eliano Braz, with the Brazilian Arts Ensemble.


eliano braz

But Eliano tells us had no idea he was being filmed, let alone that a ballet troupe would leap onto the screen. In fact, he never saw the film until he clicked on Slipped Disc.

So who shot the video without the players’ permission? Own up now.

string quartet subway


  • Sixtus says:

    They are in a public space, presumably with the permission of the subway authorities, playing public domain music with no clearly visible indications that they don’t want to be filmed. I hardly think making and posting the video was illegal.

  • Banon says:

    My understanding: In the US there’s little expectation of privacy when you’re in a public place. For the most part, people may be filmed and photographed if they’re in public. It might be rude in many cases, but not illegal.

  • Steve Wehmhoff says:

    The legal busking in the NYC Subways is always welcome. But a little permission to post a video might have been polite, although in a public place the quartet (and associated improvising dancers) might not be entitles to legal protection. Although I am sure that should they be: a portion of the micro- pennies earned would belong to them.

  • Peter Metrinko says:

    Without the filming, this performance (which was wonderful, especially given the impromptu dance) would have gone virtually unnoticed. The musicians should embrace the viral nature of the film. (A fair number of musicians have profited from You Tube).

    • SVM says:

      I doubt very many musicians make money from Youtube — the royalty rates are so pitiful that they are the subject of a confidentiality clause in the PRS deal (does anybody know the situation with PPL?). The real winner is Google, unfortunately.

  • Bill says:

    Taking pictures or video in a public place is legal in the U.S. and obtaining permission from the subject is not required. I wish this blog would do some fact checking for once and stop trying to stir up controversies where one doesn’t exist. This has become the Jerry Springer of music blogs.

  • Juli says:

    Four clicks from this very post gets you to a screen where you can type out a Google message to the person who posted this (charming and legally obtained) video, if you really want to find them. No need to ask for a public confession.

  • Will Moseng says:

    He’s not trying to stir up a controversy about copyright ownershiP, he already knows that. He’s trying to draw tension to the fact that people actually read slipped disc in the musical business. Kind of sad, actually.

  • william osborne says:

    Actually, it is forbidden to video or film anything in the NYC subway system. Section 1050.6 – 5 of the MTA’s rules of conduct states:

    (5) No person shall use media devices such as films, slides or videotapes.

    See: http://web.mta.info/nyct/rules/rules.htm

    I think the rationale is to protect the privacy of people sitting in trains or waiting on platforms. I’ve also been told it is to prevent terrorists from having the tapes to study, which is, of course ridiculous since it’s so easy to secretly film. Another reason might be to prevent people from showing how dilapidated the system is, especially in the poorer neighborhoods. I was once doing exactly that when the police chased me off for filming.

    The system is so anachronistic that key parts of the equipment like large electrical switches used by the tracks now have to be made by hand. Routes can thus be closed for days at a time while parts are fabricated, though fortunately this doesn’t happen too often. So different from the whisper-quiet, highly efficient, safe, modern systems of Europe. The rich don’t use the subway, so don’t expect any changes soon.

    • Sixtus says:

      See section 1050.9c where it specifically states that photography, filming and video recording ARE permitted. Your rationale is faulty since one can have no expectation of privacy in such a public space whether it be a platform or a train or a city park. The wording of the regulation you do cite is vague but I think it means you can’t start projecting things. The last thing anybody wants to see in the NYC subway station is a Powerpoint presentation.

  • joshg says:

    People get so caught up in the legalities that more important questions of ethics and decency gets buried. If you record a concert with your iPhone, that is illegal. If you record a street performer or your neighbor’s cat, that is legal. But in ALL cases, posting publicly to youtube without asking the subjects’ permission is a dick move. Just because you have an iPhone does not make some else’s performance your automatic property.
    “Do you mind if I post this to Youtube?” It’s not that hard to ask. Otherwise, you’re being a belligerent jerk.

  • Bambi says:

    I see a passerby leaving some money for the group. Is Eliano and the group claiming this income on their taxes? Maybe Eliano should be less concerned about the free publicity (which he would never have received) being illegal (which it isn’t), and more concerned that I might forward this to the IRS and they can have a little look.

  • K Barrett says:

    Actually, I believe that rule refers to people playing movies or showing slides, etc. on their devices (oops, are those tablets operating illegally?), rather than to creating them, because this rule, under Section 1050.9, Restricted areas and activities, reads as follows:

    (c) Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used. Members of the press holding valid identification issued by the New York City Police Department are hereby authorized to use necessary ancillary equipment.