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NPPA Joins Coalition for Court Transparency

February 18th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) announced that it had joined the Coalition for Court Transparency (CCT). Citing long lines outside the Supreme Court and the millions of Americans who are interested in, and affected by, the Court’s decisions but unable to see cases being argued, this new alliance of media and legal organizations from across the political spectrum today launched a television ad campaign calling on the justices to allow cameras to televise oral arguments.

The Coalition is taking the unprecedented step of using an ad campaign to draw attention to the lack of transparency in this powerful branch of government and to urge the Justices to change this outdated restriction.

“NPPA strongly believes in greater transparency at the U.S. Supreme Court.  Our support of the bipartisan coalition underscores our belief that the collective voice of CCT-member organizations ultimately can bring about the necessary changes in court policy,” said NPPA president Mark J. Dolan.

While Congress has debated bipartisan, bicameral bills intended to compel Supreme Court justices to allow cameras over the last 15 years, legal experts agree that the justices could simply decide today to allow cameras – and Monday’s cases regarding the Environment Protection Agency and its authority to address greenhouse gas pollution would be televised. In the past C-SPAN officials have stated that the station would broadcast all of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments if allowed.

Currently, to attend Supreme Court hearings, individuals must stand in line outside the building on First Street NE and wait to be ushered in. There are roughly 400 seats in the courtroom, so many people hoping to view the arguments are unable to, especially in cases that have broad public interest, such as the marriage equality, voting rights, and affirmative action cases last term and the campaign finance, recess appointments, and public prayer cases this term. For these types of cases, interested parties must often line up hours, if not days, in advance of the arguments and in some instances pay thousands of dollars to “line-standers” to hold their places for them.

In addition to NPPA, members of the Coalition for Court Transparency are: Alliance for Justice, American Society of News Editors, Constitutional Accountability Center, Liberty Coalition, National Association of Broadcasters, National Press Foundation, OpenTheGovernment.org, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Society for Professional Journalists.

“As one element in our democracy’s system of checks and balances, the U.S. Supreme Court is a vital institution that increasingly is growing in importance.  As such, NPPA believes that citizens have a right to view broadcasts of the court’s oral arguments and announcements of its opinions on cases,” said NPPA Executive Director Charles W. L. (“Chip”) Deale.

Despite the Supreme Court’s own reluctance on cameras, Americans have greater access to high-level judicial hearings elsewhere in the country. All 50 state supreme courts permit recording equipment to varying degrees, and on the federal level the Judicial Conference of the United States has placed cameras in 14 federal courts as part of a three-year, multi-district pilot program to study the effect of broadcasting federal court proceedings.

As the Voice of Visual Journalists since 1946, the NPPA has long advocated for cameras in the courtroom on the state and federal level as the lack of transparency erodes public confidence in the Court. Our general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher, has written extensively about the subject and we believe the first way for the public to learn about and understand U.S. Supreme Court decisions is for citizens to be able to watch and hear those cases being announced by and argued before the court.

The ad, a 30-second television spot titled “Everywhere,” will run nearly 300 times in the Washington, D.C., market on cable news outlets over the next few weeks.   The Coalition also announced today that through its website, OpenSCOTUS.com, concerned Americans can sign an online petition calling on Chief Justice John Roberts to allow cameras in the Court.

“Everywhere” script

“The Supreme Court’s decisions impact the lives of Americans everywhere. But only a privileged few get to witness history and see justice in action. Leading Republicans and Democrats and a large majority of Americans support a simple fix – putting cameras in the Supreme Court. State and federal courts allow cameras in the interest of transparency. Shouldn’t our nation’s top court do the same? It’s time for a more open judiciary. It’s time for cameras in the Supreme Court. Find out more and take action at OpenSCOTUS.com.”

To view the ad, visit OpenSCOTUS.com.

For more information contact Mickey H. Osterreicher at 716.983.7800 or [email protected]

For more information about the Coalition for Court Transparency, please contact CCT spokesperson Gabe Roth at 202-464-6919 (office), 312-545-8556 (cell) or [email protected].

URL: http://www.OpenSCOTUS.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/OpenSCOTUS

Facebook: http://facebook.com/OpenSCOTUS

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/openscotus

Change.org petition:​ https://www.change.org/petitions/chief-justice-john-roberts-it-s-time-for-cameras-in-the-supreme-court-3

Posted in Access, broadcasting, Cameras in the Courtroom, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Open Government, photographers, photojournalism, SCOTUS, US Supreme Court, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

Photojournalist investigated by FAA for using drone near fatal accident scene.

February 11th, 2014 by Alicia Calzada

A videographer for WFSB in Hartford, Connecticut is reportedly under investigation after using his personal remote-controlled aerial camera to photograph an accident scene in early February. The Hartford Courant reports that while investigating a fatal police crash in Hartford on February 1, police noticed the craft at the crime scene. The police reported the photographer to the FAA and complained to WFSB, which then reportedly suspended him. The FAA reportedly has announced that it will be investigating.

According to the Courant and Motherboard, the operator was Pedro Rivera, an employee of WFSB who was not on the job at the time. Motherboard also reports that Rivera was suspended from WFSB for a week over the incident.

More and more, journalists are experimenting with remote-controlled cameras for coverage, such as this coverage of a polar-bear plunge in Washington state. But the FAA has repeatedly pushed back, even going so far as to issue cease-and-desist letters to drone journalism programs.  The FAA has told anyone using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for commercial purposes that such use is illegal, and the FAA has been treating journalistic activity as commercial use. However, several users have noted that the FAA policy is not based in any law.

The NPPA has been advocating for the First Amendment rights of journalists to use drones in their work and has been monitoring FAA handling of drone photography and efforts at crafting regulations.

Last week the NPPA launched a survey asking journalists to weigh in on drone journalism use. Click here to take the survey.

Posted in Access, Cameras, drone, First Amendment, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) | No Comments »

Photographer Groups Question Google Anti-Trust Settlement

February 7th, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , ,

The European Commission for Competition is facing significant backlash after its President announced it has reached a preliminary settlement with Google in a major anti-trust suit. Many, including an international coalition of trade associations joined by the NPPA, have criticized the commission for failing to allow interested parties to provide input during negotiations on the terms of the deal.

Google fell under investigation in the EU in 2010 over concerns it was using its massive online presence to unfairly interfere with competitors.  In November of 2013, a group led by the Centre of the Picture Industry joined in the suit, filing a complaint against the Internet giant’s use of third-party images.   The CEPIC represents more than 900 European picture agencies and libraries.

The complaint accused Google of displaying third-party images without right holders’ consent, and encouraging piracy by allowing users to download unlicensed images directly from search results.  It’s the astounding scope of Google Images that makes these activities especially concerning.  A search for nearly any imaginable picture on the site yields pages and pages of results. Photographers and picture agencies face an even greater burden because Google’s dominance of the online search industry and use of sophisticated technologies makes it difficult to shield against or remedy infringement, the CEPIC argued.

Whether the proposed settlement will address these concerns remains unclear; advocates have responded to the lack of transparency with requests for greater involvement.   “We believe that truly satisfying and workable remedies can be reached in close cooperation with those affected by them, CEPIC President Alfonso Gutierrez said, in a letter to the commission. “If [this] set of commitments is indeed “much better” (as claimed by Reuters), in particular by protecting image providers against their exploitation, a consultation of the interested parties would confirm just that.”

In a press conference Wednesday, Vice President of  the European Commission for Competition Joaquin Almunia outlined elements of the settlement he said were very significant moving forward.  Almunia said it was important that Google present rival links in a manner comparable with that of its own, and that it maintain that parity as it continues to develop search technology.

What Alumunia’s speech didn’t address was whether any other terms of the settlement, would address concerns of photographers and picture agencies.

“NPPA is severely disappointed by the commission’s unilateral decision to negotiate a settlement without ensuring that the vitally important perspectives of NPPA and other associations were incorporated into the discussions and proposed terms,” said NPPA Executive Director Charles W. L. (“Chip”) Deale, CAE.  “We would hope and expect that our concerns about the unauthorized use of images are addressed before any settlement is finalized,” he added.

Almunia pointed to market studies associated with previous settlement proposals as justification for commission’s decision not to solicit input from interested parties previous to drawing up the terms of the deal.

Gutierrez was skeptical of Alumnia’s logic on that point, and also expressed doubt that the current proposal would include protection against Google’s use of unauthorized images, as the two previous plans did not include any such remedy.

The CEPIC-led coalition have an opportunity to voice an opinion on the matter in the form of feedback to a pre-rejection letter that explains why the commission believes the proposed settlement addresses the group’s legal claims.  Almunia says he will analyze the feedback from all pre-rejection letters before offering up a final plan to the College of Commissioners for a vote.

Posted in Access, First Amendment rights, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | No Comments »

House Panel Hears Testimony On Fair Use Doctrine

February 3rd, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

As part of a continued effort to review and improve U.S. copyright law, a House panel this week held a hearing to consider the scope of the fair use doctrine, a key legal tenet that allows the unlicensed use of copyrighted works in certain circumstances.

Recently hired NPPA Executive Director Chip Deale and General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher were on hand as the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet heard expert testimony centered on the question of whether legislative action is needed to address fair use.

The majority’s conclusion: probably not.

The current four-prong test for whether a potential infringement is considered fair use balances society’s interests in the free exchange of information and creator’s property interests in their works.  Copyrighted works used for criticism, comment, news reporting, and research typically fall under the exception.

It’s nearly universal accepted that fair use is a critical aspect of American intellectual property law.  There is, however, some disagreement as to the manner in which it sometimes applied.  Particularly problematic in the eyes of some legal scholars is the increased weight courts appear to be assigning to whether a new work “transforms” the original.  The bar for what’s considered transformative has been relatively low on occasion; complete reproductions used for commercial gain have been allowed in cases where the works are being used for a new purpose or to exploit a novel market.

Columbia law professor June Besek testified as to her concern over this interpretation:

“[An] expansive view of what it means to be transformative has opened the door to claims that  making complete copies of multiple works, even for commercial purposes, and even without creating a new work, can be a fair use. This is a substantial departure from the long-prevailing view that copying an entire work is generally not a fair use,” Besek said.

Besek argued against the Supreme Court’s rationale in the Google Books case, a highly publicized decision in which the high court found that the Internet giant’s copying of millions of texts into digital format was fair use.

This “functional transformation”, in which a user does not substantially alter the content of a work, is beyond the scope of fair use, and risks unjustifiably interfering with author’s property interests, Besek said.

Despite her disagreement with increasingly broad applications of the doctrine, Besek said she believed legislative action to alter the fair use doctrine was unnecessary.  She suggested separate action might be taken to specifically address the digitization of texts.

American University law professor Peter Jaszi agreed that Congressional revision isn’t needed at this time, arguing that a “flexible, open-ended fair use doctrine is well suited for application to digital mediums.”

Kurt Wimmer, who serves as the General Counsel for the Newspaper Association of American, put an even finer point to the sentiments that seemed to be shared by the others who testified:

“Court decisions interpreting fair use have not always been perfect, but overall we have faith that the long arc of the common law will, over time, result in workable fair use decisions for all members of the digital ecosystem and for the public we serve,” Wimmer contended.

This understanding of the fair use, as a self-correcting doctrine that should be allowed flexibility to adapt to the medium’s in which operates, will be tested when a judge reconsiders photographer Partrick Cariou’s copyright suit against artist Richard Prince.  Cariou sued Prince after the artist integrated Cariou’s pictures into an exhibit without permission.  Claims as to the all but five of the works have been dismissed.  The legal standard the court applies as to the works “transformativeness” will be important signal as to the breadth fair use doctrine moving forward.  In December, the NPPA joined several other advocacy groups in filing documents supporting Cariou.

Fair Use Photo Joe Keeley (left) Listens as NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher (center) makes a point and NPPA Executive Director Chip Deale (right) looks on at a break in the hearing “The Scope of Fair Use” held by the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, Tuesday January 28, 2014 (Photo by John Harrington)

Posted in Access, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | No Comments »