For those not in the know, PINAC is a loose organization, focused on spotlighting that photography isn’t a crime, and harassment from law enforcement and security should not happen based on someone carrying, or using, a camera. Here at SB, we’ve had several articles, aimed both at photographers and security/LEOs which focus on the same thing. A couple of weeks ago, however, Carlos Miller, the founder of PINAC and himself a “survivor” of a police beating and major law suit involving government and citizens’ rights to photo, announced that he is considering pulling the plug on the whole thing, citing major revenue issues and problems with the costs involved in running the site (PINAC.org/photographyisnotacrime.com) as the major issues he’s facing.
The Importance of PINAC
The wealth of videos and accounts of people being harassed, detained, bullied, questioned, searched and arrested for taking pictures in the US is staggering. Even with court rulings, unambiguous laws, internal DHS memos, and documentation that specifically states that taking photos and/or video in public is no grounds for even an approach, these things keep happening, every day. Having a centralized hub for information and documentation of these things has been immensely important, both to educate the public and the law enforcement and security personnel who have been overstepping their bounds.
The site’s mission is certainly not unique – there are several sites out there, advocating civil rights, standing up for those rights, and documenting that act for protection of everyone involved. But, PINAC has had a certain special standing, being one of the first “true” organizations of this kind, with a solid base in personal experience with the founder, and a massive impact. According to some sources, the site has several million pages views per month, and Alexa ranks it in the 70 000 and above segment. This is, needless to say, a massive impact, signifying again what an important site PINAC has been, and still is.
The Strange Closure Notice
While the notice from Miller perhaps isn’t so strange in itself, the reasons for considering closing down PINAC, are. Carlos cites increasing costs, the many hours of work that is put into the site, and the personal strain that the site has become because of it. The hosting cost of PINAC’s .com site is around 400 USD per month. A fairly regular sum, considering the size of the site and the traffic it has to handle at any given time. Site staff (?) says that the site utilizes 5 servers for load handling and SQL reasons, which also seems somewhat excessive.
The amount of ads the site runs isn’t excessive, but the lack of other revenue streams is very surprising. There are no publications, no white papers, no ebooks, no radio shows, nothing. While most of the content is generated by outside users, submissions and the like, questions arise as to where the ad revenue is actually winding up, and why it is so insufficient. The site itself is sorely lacking, both when it comes to SEO, technical optimization, design and efficiency. According to metrics, the front page takes more than 2 seconds to load, with a size of around 7 MB. That, in itself, is quite unacceptable – 80% of sites on the internet are faster loading, and have smaller front pages. Individual pages are, just to mention those as well, not much better. Running on the ever trusty WordPress platform, these are issues which are easily fixed. So why haven’t they been?
The Effects of a PINAC closure
While it’s hard to estimate what the effects of PINAC closing down would be, it’s clear that an important outlet and “soap box” for civil liberties would disappear. In that manner, the upkeep of the site goes further than Carlos’ own, personal needs, founder of the site or not. The first step to keeping the site alive would definitely be to accept the help and suggestions that several users are offering, swallowing personal pride about the time invested in the site, and let go of some of the control over design choices and technical decisions. But, time will tell. As for now, it seems PINAC is headed for whatever doom Carlos has in mind for it.