Photographing Farms in Florida (say that 3 times fast)

March 2nd, 2011 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , ,

A member brought it to our attention that a proposed bill in Florida would make it illegal to photograph a farm or other agricultural property without written consent of the owner. The language of the bill is worded broadly enough that a photographer making images of a farm from a public place would be committing a felony. We contacted the offices of the author of the bill and NPPA Attorney Mickey Osterreicher has received assurances from staff members that the bill is being amended to specifically relate to trespassers on private property.

We will monitor this closely, but photographers should be aware that even if the changes are made, this bill may still require written consent from the owner of any agricultural facility, whose property you are on, to allow any photography or videography and you may need to bring consent forms with you on assignments. This could put the subjects of stories in a bargaining position that interferes with objective reporting. Even with changes to clarify the public property exception, an element of the crime is photography which makes me very uncomfortable. We will continue to monitor.

Posted in First Amendment, Florida, Legal, photojournalism, trespass | 15 Comments »

15 Responses to “Photographing Farms in Florida (say that 3 times fast)”

  1.   Tom Marshall Says:

    Is this really what we want our elected officials to be working on? They can’t find any more pressing problems than this to solve? Time for new elected officials!

  2.   Fritz Nordengren Says:

    Iowa is exploring similar legislation this term

    Iowa bills: SF341/HF431

  3.   Denny Simmons Says:

    Thanks for keeping us up-to-date on this. I’m interested to hear why a bill like this would even be needed. What brought it on?

  4.   Alicia Calzada Says:

    Denny, my understanding is that the Farm Lobby is trying to prevent exposes that have created bad publicity. I guess the legislators understand the theory “you don’t want to see how sausage is made.” The argument they probably would make would be that they are trying to protect their trade secrets- but of course a) there are already laws protecting trade secrets and b) how you mistreat animals or fail to properly process crops should not be a trade secret.

  5.   Lowen Says:

    America: Land of the Free? or now Land of the Fee? This proposed law reminds one of the Soviet Communist countries practices years ago. You would be arrested and your camera and film (remember that?)confiscated if you took pictures at a train station or port.

    What’s GROWING in America these days.
    (notes from Canada!)

  6.   Keith Turrill Says:

    This Jim Norman fellow in the Florida legislature is a horses back end.

  7.   Keith Turrill Says:

    Bills before the Iowa state legislature Agricultural Crimes (SF431 and HF589)would criminalize photography of farms. This is similar to the proposed Florida law.

    Iowa House Bill 589

    Sec. 9. NEW SECTION. 717A.2A Animal facility interference.
    1. A person is guilty of animal facility interference, if
    the person acts without the consent of the owner of an animal
    facility to willfully do any of the following:
    a. Produce a record which reproduces an image or sound
    occurring at the animal facility as follows:
    (1) The record must be created by the person while at the
    animal facility.
    (2) The record must be a reproduction of a visual or audio
    experience occurring at the animal facility, including but not limited to a photographic or audio medium.

  8.   Todd Maisel Says:

    Isn’t criminal trespass enough? Why is this bill needed?

  9.   Claude Cookman Says:

    Thanks for this news, Alicia. But I’m curious about the motivation for the bill. My guess is that it’s directed against animal rights people who have taken videos showing the mistreatment of animals on factory farms. I would appreciate having some confirmation and knowing more about why the sponsor thinks this bill is necessary.

    I am concerned about the threat to the First Amendment rights of photographers, but I am equally concerned about the political Right’s attempts to criminalize the efforts of animal rights activists to expose the inhumane treatment of animals. Whatever its motivation(s) the end result of such a bill becoming law would be to deny important visual knowledge — however disturbing — to the American people.

    Claude Cookman

  10.   Alicia Calzada Says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments, and especially for the notes on Iowa. We have reached out to the Iowa legislature and I have analyzed the bill here: It raises a lot of concerns.

  11.   Beach Mama Says:

    For an update on this bill go to:

    Main excerpt:

    “On March 17, 2011, the Republican-dominated Iowa House of Representative voted 65-27 to approve a bill criminalizing secretly recording factory farm practices. Under the bill, House File 589 § 9, drolly named “Animal Facility Interference,” any person who produces, possesses or distributes an audio or visual recording of an animal facility without the consent of the owner is guilty of either a class D felony or aggravated misdemeanor. The bill still has to pass through the Democrat-controlled Senate before officially becoming Iowa law, but with similar proposals popping up in other states including Florida, the idea of prohibiting these exposé recordings is picking up steam.”

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