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NPPA Joined by 13 Organizations Files Comments in Support of Electronic Recording and Audio-Visual Coverage of Court Proceedings in NYS

November 13th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The NPPA, joined by 13 other organizations filed comments today with the New York State Office of Court Administration (“OCA”) in support of proposals to revise and update the Unified Court System (“UCS”) rules regarding electronic recording and audio-visual coverage of court proceedings in the state.

The letter also supports proposed revisions to the definition of audio-visual coverage and other proposed clarifications excluding still photography from the definition of audio-visual coverage. Additionally the letter affirms support of the proposed goals set by the Communications & Media Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of New York City: “(i) consistently maintaining the distinction between audio-visual coverage and still photography throughout the rules and using consistent terminology to avoid confusion; (ii) emphasizing that there should be a presumption in favor of permitting both audio-visual and still photographic coverage to the extent consistent with Section 52 of the Civil Rights Law, with ultimate decisions left to the presiding judges; and (iii) eliminating certain restrictions on coverage created or continued by the proposed revisions that go beyond the requirements of Section 52.”

It urges OCA “to exercise its authority to ensure that New York’s court system, which has been a beacon of progressive policies for the nation, does not fall further behind than it already has under some of the anachronistic rules promulgated at a time when televisions used vacuum tubes and at best could receive 12 channels, broadcast in black & white for a few hours a day.”

Addressing those opposed to the proposed changes, NPPA general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher wrote, “the tired arguments that camera coverage will: prejudice a defendant’s fair trial rights, their right of privacy, the prosecution’s ability to have witnesses comply with subpoenas, as well as the detrimental effect cameras will have on lawyers, judges, and other participants are just that – threadbare and unsubstantiated. But the more crucial point is not how cameras affect either side in a litigation. It is whether cameras will increase the public’s confidence in our justice system. Nothing is more fundamental to our democratic system of governance than the right of the people to know how their government is functioning on their behalf. That, we submit, is a higher value which should drive the debate here; and is the central point about which the Bar Association, the Unified Court System and, indeed, the legislature should be concerned.”

The groups joining in the letter were: Associated Press Media Editors, Associated Press Photo Managers, The Deadline Club/New York City Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Media Law Resource Center, New York News Publishers Association, New York Press Photographers Association, New York State Broadcasters Association, Inc., The NewsGuild of New York Local 31003, CWA, North Jersey Media Group, Online News Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Scripps Media, Inc., d/b/a WKBW-TV and Society of Professional Journalists.

Posted in Access, Cameras, Cameras in the Courtroom, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | No Comments »

New Copyright Compendium bans works produced by “nature, animals, and plants” and implicitly uses monkey selfie as example

September 3rd, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , ,

In the recently released U.S. Copyright Compendium, which lays out regulations about the registration process for copyrights, one sentence stood out from the rest of the 1200-page document, and is as follows: “The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants, which includes a photograph taken by a monkey.” It stood out because three years ago, David Slater, a British photographer, traveled to Indonesia to photograph monkeys. While there, he had his camera snatched by a monkey and the monkey ended up taking some amazing photographs with his camera. Slater published these photos, and later discovered that one of them was published on Wikipedia without his permission. Slater wanted the photo taken down, and while Wikipedia at first complied, another editor later revisted the decision and reposted the image, because the editor took the position that the photo was taken by the monkey and not Slater, thus making it public domain. A lively debate over whether Slater owned the copyright ensued. Slater maintains that he owns the copyright, noting that “there are many wildlife photographers that regularly employ animals to push the shutter button.  Pressure pads, trip wires, beam splitters – all devices attached to a camera that allows an animal to ‘take’ a photograph. In my case it was an attached cable release.”

For an interesting analysis of the Compendium and the monkey selfie see: “Return to the Snapshots of the Apes,” by Terry Hart. Also see: “Wikimedia Says When a Monkey Takes a Selfie, No One Owns It,” by Louise Stewart. For a tongue-in-cheek read on what the monkey had to say see:  “A Statement Statement From the Monkey,” by Bill Barol.

It is important to remember that the policy set forth in the U.S. Copyright Compendium is not binding upon the U.S. Copyright Office or the Register of Copyrights. It is only “the administrative manual of the Register of Copyrights concerning Title 17 of the United States Code and Chapter 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and provides instruction to agency staff regarding their statutory duties and expert guidance to copyright applicants, practitioners, scholars, the courts, and members of the general public regarding institutional practices and related principles of law.”

While the Compendium is not law, it certainly does influence law making in the realm of copyrights. Therefore, concerned photographers should comment on the Compendium, through the federal register. According to the Copyright Office the Compendium “will remain in draft form for 120 days [from August 19, 2014] pending final review and implementation, taking effect on or around December 15, 2014.” The public may submit comments to the Copyright Office regarding the Compendium up until that date.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to clarify that Wikipedia initially complied with the takedown request, and later changed its mind, and to include a quote from David Slater.

Posted in Cameras, copyright, copyright infringement, multimedia, photographers, photojournalism, U.S. Copyright Office | No Comments »

NPPA Helps Create Newly Released Credentialing Report

June 5th, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Digital Media Law Project at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Journalist’s Resource project at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, in collaboration with a Media Credentialing Working Group composed of the National Press Photographers Association, the Digital Media Law Project, Journalist’s Resource, Free Press, the Investigative News Network, and the Nieman Journalism Lab have released a new report: Who Gets a Press Pass? Media Credentialing Practices in the United States.

Media credentials have long played a critical role in newsgathering in the United States, allowing journalists to gain special access to places and events denied to the general public. There are, however, many inconsistencies among regulatory standards for the issuance of credentials, and many circumstances where the decision of whether and how to issue credentials is left up to individual agencies with no regulatory guidance at all. Moreover, upheaval in the journalism industry has introduced new actors in the journalism ecosystem, complicating decisions by government agencies and private gatekeepers about who should be entitled to special access.

Who Gets a Press Pass? presents a first-of-its-kind analysis of this complex environment, exploring media credentialing practices in the United States through a nationwide survey of more than 1,300 newsgatherers.

“Media credentials represent one of the most important interactions between journalists and those who control access to events and information,” said Jeff Hermes, director of the Digital Media Law Project and an author of the report. “This study finds common threads that run through decisions by various types of organizations, as a starting point to make sense out of the vast array of credentialing practices in the United States.”

Survey respondents included a wide range of journalists across the country, from employed journalists at long-standing media organizations to independent bloggers and activists fulfilling the information needs of their communities.

“The findings here speak to the vital issue of ensuring that journalists of all kinds can bear witness to important events in our society,” said Shorenstein Center Director Alex S. Jones. “The ability of the press to operate freely, robustly and without interference is essential to an informed public. We must be vigilant in making sure that all organizations issuing press credentials exert the maximum effort to accommodate media members and enable the free flow of information.”

The survey asked about respondents’ experiences in seeking press credentials from federal, state, local, and private organizations from 2008 through 2013, revealing the following nationwide trends:

  • One out of every five journalists surveyed who applied for a credential was denied at least once by a credentialing organization in the past five years. Although there may be reasonable grounds for denial in some cases, the data suggest systemic issues at many levels.
  • Freelancers are more than twice as likely as employed journalists to be denied a credential at least once.
  • Those identifying themselves as photographers are almost twice as likely as others to be denied a credential at least once.
  • Those identifying themselves as activists are more than twice as likely as others to be denied a credential at least once.

“It is indeed unfortunate that photographers have been one of the groups singled out for denial by agencies issuing press credentials, but it also must be pointed out that one does not need a press credential to photograph and record in a public place. That said, widespread mistrust by police officers of the media (or anyone with a camera) continues to be reflected in the misguided belief that photography and recording in public places may be prohibited,” said NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher, who helped formulate the survey.

It is the hope of the Working Group that this study will help newsgatherers to identify particular tensions in media credentialing practices and to work with credentialing agencies to resolve these tensions.

The report is available through the Digital Media Law Project’s website at http://www.dmlp.org/credentials and through the Journalist’s Resource website at http://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/news-media/who-gets-press-pass-credentialing.

Posted in Access, Cameras, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Press Credentials, Public Photography, Regulations limiting photography | 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 »

New York Lawmakers Urged to Allow Cameras In The Courtroom

January 4th, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , ,

As a new legislative session approaches, the NPPA is hopeful that the New York State legislature will finally permit cameras in the courtroom. To that end, the NPPA drafted a letter signed by 36 media organizations, to Governor Andrew Cuomo expressing its support for expanded audiovisual coverage of courtroom proceedings.

There’s evidence that the tide is already turning on the issue in New York.  In a speech last year, New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced a legislative proposal to expand camera coverage of courtroom proceedings.  Ultimately, however, it is the legislature’s prerogative to establish more permissive access laws.  The benefits from such a move would be significant, explained NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher:

“It will bring transparency to the judicial system, provide increased accountability from litigants, judges, and the press and educate citizens about the judicial process. Audio-visual coverage will allow the public to ensure that proceedings are conducted fairly, and, by extension, that government systems are working correctly.  We expect that the watchful eye of the public will demand increased accountability from all courtroom participants. Claims of sensationalistic or inaccurate reporting will be readily verifiable by a public able to view the underlying proceedings for itself.”

Osterreicher pointed to a series of empirical studies and experiments that tend to refute claims that audiovisual equipment is obtrusive and hinders defendant’s fair trial rights. The evolution of both audiovisual equipment and broadcast media stands at the core of the discussion.  Simply put, the traditional justifications offered for banning cameras from the courtroom are no longer a concern.

“There are no more whirling, noisy cameras. There are no more glaring lights.  Nor does a thundering herd of technicians have to go in and out of the courtroom to set up and tear down their gear.  Modern equipment is inaudible, requires no additional lighting and can be operated by a limited number of trained professionals,” noted Osterreicher. Further, “their presence in the courtroom and the images that they convey provide a compelling public service without infringing upon the constitutional or statutory rights of any affected persons or institutions. Respect for the dignity, decorum and safety of the courthouse is not only maintained but enhanced by having cameras in the courtroom,” he said.

The expansion of cable broadcasting and the Internet is also critical, as media groups are now free from time and programming constraints and can often show live feeds of courtroom proceedings from start to finish.

Osterreicher added that any legislation should allow judges the discretion necessary to permit cameras while preserving the rights of litigants and the sanctity of the courtroom.

The desirability of the free exchange of ideas is one of the foundational tenants of the First Amendment.  As such, lawmakers should look closely at the rationale for any policy that places a bottleneck on the flow of information, Osterreicher said.

“Society can ill afford to let the arbitrary and speculative objections of some antagonistic to the electronic press infringe upon the public’s right to observe proceedings in our courts by lens-capping the very means by which modern society receives news and information.”

Numerous states have considered measures similar to those contemplated in New York, and Congress has even considered passing legislation to reverse the longtime ban on cameras in the Supreme Court, the most recent effort stalling in Senate committee last June.

The NPPA had previously submitted an amicus brief to the New York State Court of Appeals supporting cameras in the courtroom the last time this issue came before the court in 2005.

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

Senate to Consider Bill Favoring Cameras in U.S. Supreme Court

June 21st, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced legislation Thursday that would require the Supreme Court to televise proceedings, just days before the high court is expected to hand down a series of major rulings.

The Supreme Court has just over a week to publish decisions on gay marriage, affirmative action, and the Voting Rights Act, some of the most contentiously litigated and publicly discussed issues of the day.

The Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2013 would require the Supreme Court to offer live television access of proceedings unless a majority of Justices agree that doing so would violate the due process rights of a party before the Court.  Currently, a written transcript of the proceedings is published each day the Court is session, and audio is posted at the end of the week.

In a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts earlier this week, Senator Durbin argued the importance of increased transparency:

“The Court’s opinions in these cases will impact millions of individuals and the collective fabric of American life. Accordingly, it is not unreasonable for the American people to have an opportunity to hear firsthand the arguments and opinions that will shape their society for years to come.”

It’s not the first time someone has tried to pull back the curtain on the Supreme Court’s decision-making process.  Almost two decades ago, a question about the possibility of cameras in the courtroom led Justice David Souter to famously remark, “The day you see a camera come into our courtroom, it’s going to roll over my dead body.”

Opposition to cameras in the Court is centrally grounded in concerns that their presence will have a warping effect, either on the manner in which Justices consider cases, or the way the public perceives the Court.

Justice Antonin Scalia has openly worried that edited video clips from the Supreme Court would paint an inaccurate picture of what actually happens in chambers.  “For every one person who sees it on C-SPAN gavel to gavel so they can really understand what the court is about . . . 10,000 will see 15-second takeouts on the network news, which, I guarantee you, will be uncharacteristic of what the court does,” Scalia said in 2005.

NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher responded to such critiques in an article published in the Reynolds Courts & Media Law Journal.  “The federal judiciary must be mindful of its high power not to erect its own prejudices into judicial rules, Osterreicher observed, “Society can ill afford to let the misplaced and speculative objections of jurists antagonistic to the electronic press substantially undermine a fundamental constitutional right by lens-capping the very tools of the profession and eviscerating the very means by which most Americans receive their news.”

Not every Justice agrees that the Supreme Court is no place for cameras.  Justices Kagan and Sotomayor have made statements reflecting their support for the video recording of court proceedings, and in 2008 Chief Justice Roberts told NPPA Attorney Alicia Calzada that he was not opposed to the idea.  Regardless, the Supreme Court has not signaled any meaningful change in its official position.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has offered bills similar to Durbin and Grassley’s the past two Congresses; both died on the Senate floor.

Lawmakers’ inability to move on this issue is hardly surprising given the recent epidemic of inaction on Capitol Hill, and concerns over potential separation of powers conflicts may be tempering enthusiasm among some in Congress.

But cameras in the Supreme Court isn’t an issue that’s going away, nor should it be.

“The ability of the public to view actual courtroom trials should not be trivialized,” Osterreicher contends.  “That right, advanced by cameras in the courtroom, is the right of the people to monitor the official functions of their government.  Nothing is more fundamental to the democratic system of governance than this right of the people to know how their government is functioning on their behalf.”

You can access weekly updated audio of oral arguments here, while written transcripts are posted the same day the Court hears a case.

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

NPPA Responds to LAPD “Special Order” that equates photography with criminal activity

September 20th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada

Once again, a law enforcement agency has instructed its officers to equate photography with terrorism, and the NPPA has responded. The NPPA was joined by a coalition of other media and photography organizations this week in a letter to Chief Charles Beck, of the Los Angeles Police Department, including the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Los Angeles Times, the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), the Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles (PPAGLA), the Society of Professional Journalists – Greater Los Angeles Chapter (SPJ-LA) and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP).

The LAPD recently issued guidelines instructing their officers on “behavior/activity that may reveal a nexus to foreign or domestic terrorism.” Such behavior listed includes:

“Taking pictures or videos of facilities/buildings, infrastructures, or protected sites in a manner that would arouse suspicion in a reasonable person.  Examples include taking pictures or videos of ingress/egress, delivery locations, personnel performing security functions (e.g., patrol, badge/vehicle checking), security-related equipment (e.g., perimeter fencing, security cameras), etc”

In the letter, NPPA General Counsel, Mickey Osterreicher explained to Chief Beck:

“Photography is protected by the First Amendment, subject only to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. Unfortuately the reliance on policies such as the LAPD’s as the basis for law enforcement officers to question, detain and interfere with lawful activities by photographers under the guise of preventing terrotist activites has become a daily occurrence.”

Osterreicher added that this “erroneous belief is only reinforced by these specific references to photography as possibly being part of some sinister act,” noting that the guidelines are “overly broad and vague and helps foster a climate of fear and suspicion”

The NPPA offered to work with the law enforcement agency to help develop more reasonable policies regarding photography, asking that any reference to photography be removed from the guidelines.

 

Posted in Cameras, First Amendment, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Regulations limiting photography, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Street Photography, Suspicious Activity | No Comments »

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