Iowa Law Would Criminalize Publishing Farm Exposes

18 03 2011

Author’s Note: This is a cross- post from my NPPA Advocacy blog.

Recently we told you about a bill banning photography of farms in Florida. We have learned that there is a similar bill, prohibiting photography (among other things) of farms and crops without the permission of the owner. The Iowa bill has been compared to the Florida bill, but a quick read of the bill shows that it is far worse. To Iowa’s credit, it appears that photography from the street wouldn’t be affected, however, mere possession and distribution of undercover photography of a farm would be a crime. This elevates editors and news organizations to the status of criminals if they publish, or even possess undercover footage of farms, crops or animal facilities.

Specifically the bill states that “distribution or possession” of photographs that were illegally obtained (through violations of earlier portions of the bill). Under the proposed law, “A person is guilty of animal facility interference if the person. . . [p]ossess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility which” is  a “reproduction of a visual or audio experience occurring at the animal facility, including but not limited to a photographic or audio medium” without the consent of the owner.

To give some perspective to the blatant unconstitutionality of this bill consider this – the only time that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that bans distribution and possession of any kind of photography it was a law against possessing and distributing child pornography. As powerful of a lobby farmers are, elevating exposes of farms to the level of child pornography is absurd and I can’t see how this would hold up. Just last year the Supreme Court ruled that a law banning possession and distribution of video of cruelty to animals was unconstitutional. See U.S. v. Stevens, 130 S.Ct. 1577 (2010). The intent of that law was to prevent animal cruelty but even it went too far (the NPPA signed an amicus brief advocating for the overturning of that bill).

The government can’t even prevent the possession and distribution of documents that put U.S. security interests at risk so it is hard to imagine how the public relations interests of farms would be considered more compelling than U.S. security interests.

Several years ago (2001), in a case called Bartnicki v. Vopper, the Supreme Court ruled that when a news organization lawfully obtained a recording, they could not be held liable for the publication of the details of the recording, even though the recording itself was illegally obtained. The Iowa law would make a news organization liable for publishing a recording, even if the news organization had nothing to do with obtaining the recording.

The NPPA has contacted lawmakers in Iowa regarding the bill.

Journalists and Photographers in Iowa should be very concerned about this bill. While it would no doubt be struck down in court, it is much easier for all of us if it never makes it to the governor’s desk.

From HF589:

Sec. 9.1(a)(2) makes it a crime to “Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility” which was taken without permission of the owner.

Sec. 14.1.b makes it a crime to “Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the crop operation which was” taken without permission of the owner.

Advertisements




Media companies saying “No Thanks,” for the hand-outs

12 04 2010

One of the dangers of “official” photographers, is when they are used as a replacement for admitting the media.

The media doesn’t like this, but for years, there was not much in the way of response.

Things are changing. More and more, I have seen media companies refusing to run “handout” photos when they are offered as a replacement for media access.

Recently, the media was kept out of a meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama. Response was strong.

The Associated Press declined to distribute the handout photo, instead offering the following Photo Advisory:

AP Photo Advisory: The AP will not be distributing an official White House photograph of today’s meeting between President Obama and the Dalai Lama. The AP declines to accept or use handout photos when we feel access would have been possible by the media, either as a group or through a pool photo arrangement.

The New York Times and the Washington Post also stated that they would not publish the hand-out photos.

The impact of a media blackout used to be more significant. But since the Obama White House has it’s own photo distribution system (via a Flikr Photostream) it doesn’t have to rely on the AP, or even newspapers, to get its images across.

There are several good sources for this story:

Associate Press release about the Dalai Lama and Obama meeting.

Washington Times article about the Dalai Lama handout photo.

Columbia Journalism Review article on the handouts trend.

White House Flikr photo stream.

White House News Photographers Association position on handout photos.





Digital Economy Bill passes in UK- without orphan works provision

7 04 2010

Busy day. The controversial Digital Economy Bill has apparently passed in the UK. The good news is that the controversial orphan works provisions in the bill were removed, due primarily to the efforts of photographers. YEAH photogs.

Read about it here.

My previous post on the controversy, and photographers efforts is here.





Heartbreaking Video of the Killing of a Photographer released via Wikileaks

6 04 2010

This recently released video of the 2007 killing of photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, and his driver, in Baghdad by U.S. troops is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever seen.

It is incredibly disturbing, so in case you don’t want to watch the actual video, here is a link to the article by the New York Times, which does a very good job of describing the important parts of the video.

Reuters had attempted to get the video for years through an FOI request, but it was an anonymous whistle-blower leak via wikileaks that led the the release.

In addition to the devastating implications of the video, and the pain of the families, there are several important subtexts to this video release.

1) It shows the importance of anonymity of sources. I’m sure this doesn’t make the federal government more excited about a federal shield law, but for citizens, and for the fallen, it couldn’t be any more important than this. This video was “classified” and not released after years of official FOI requests. But as you can see, there is nothing in the video that reveals intelligence. In fact, it simply reveals the horrors of war, and raises outrage. The government shouldn’t be able to hide behind the principle of “government secrets,” in an effort to hide things that are only sensitive because it makes them look bad. Those within the government who realize this should be protected.

2) For those who glorify or romanticize the idea of being a war photographer, this also shows how dangerous it really is. Every photojournalism student should be required to watch this.

Let me repeat… if you are a photojournalism student, you need to watch this video. If you are an American you should be outraged.





How to be a safe and lawful Bluebonnet-er

28 03 2010


Shooting bluebonnets is one of the classic spring pastimes for photographers in Texas. For those of us who don’t shoot flowers for a living (and who does, really) it is a great way to rediscover the joy of just taking pictures for an afternoon.

But as with all things, it is important to keep it safe. I was happy to find this article (thanks to Helen Montoya Henrichs) that clarifies a few things- namely, that it is not illegal to pick the bluebonnets (but it is totally uncool to drive your car over them). Oh, yeah, and, no trespassing.

http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/director_staff/public_information/pr032602.htm





Newark Cameraman assaulted by police is suing.

5 11 2009

In general, I don’t do cartwheels when I hear about lawsuits. But this one makes me happy. A TV photographer in New Jersey has filed a lawsuit against a police officer who arrested him while the photographer was filming a peaceful demonstration. Apparently the only thing violent about this demonstration was the officer’s clash with the photographer.

This video shows the original event. Can you say “settle now.”

Dear Police of America: Stop violating the constitutional rights of journalists. We are journalists and we will get really good evidence.