May 16th, 2013 by Mickey Osterreicher
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), joined by The Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., The American Society of Media Photographers, The Radio Television Digital News Association, and The Society of Professional Journalists, has submitted letters to each of the Texas Senators, expressing extreme opposition to House Bill 912, which has passed the Texas House and is quickly making its way through the Texas Senate.
The bill makes it an offense to capture an image using an unmanned aerial vehicle, (UAV), commonly called “drones,” “with the intent to monitor or conduct surveillance.” This is the core of the offense, but there is no definition regarding what it means to “monitor” or what it means to “conduct surveillance.” NPPA’s attorney Alicia Calzada wrote, “We believe that this bill will create a significant impediment to journalists and others who are engaged in constitutionally protected speech.”
The current version of the bill has no exceptions for first amendment activity. “A journalist (or ordinary citizen) monitoring an environmental spill, documenting the aftermath of a disaster or simply monitoring traffic conditions could easily be committing a crime under this bill,” Calzada explained.
Multiple NPPA members also sent letters of objection. NPPA testified against the bill before a House committee earlier this session.
Posted in First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, Newsgathering, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Public Photography, Texas, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) | No Comments »
August 29th, 2012 by Justice Warren and tagged Access, Arrest, first amendment, Hillsboro Police Department, Mickey Osterreicher, national press photographers association, NPPA, photographers, photography, photojournalism, police, RNC, Tampa Police Department
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor speaks to media prior to a protest march at the Republican National Convention Photo by Mickey H. Osterreicher
Despite fears from some in the media that law enforcement at the Republican National Convention (RNC) would take a combative approach against protestors and journalists, the first three days of the convention have proven to be rather benign, with no reported interference with or arrests of members of the media.
Thanks in part to training programs implemented by Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), law enforcement at the convention in Tampa have attained a better grasp of the balance between the need to protect the public safety with the First Amendment rights of the press. It was Osterreicher’s hope that the training would help officers better understand those stakes when interacting with journalists at the convention.
“I think it is a combination of a number of factors, from low protester turnout to the threat of a hurricane in Tampa, along with the fact that law enforcement officials were very receptive to training that has contributed very peaceful demonstrations so far,” Osterreicher said. “I also commend all the officers from various departments around the state for their very professional, friendly and helpful attitude toward everyone they encounter, especially the press.”
Osterreicher said he reached out to the Tampa Police Department and the Hillsborough County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office back in February to offer training that would help officers prepare for the August convention. The law enforcement offices accepted, and Osterreicher held a training session in April during which he highlighted common First Amendment rights violations officers can make when dealing with journalists. Osterreicher said he commends Tampa law enforcement for agreeing to the training sessions and that he was happy for the opportunity to provide it.
“Leadership comes from the top and Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor and Hillsboro County Sheriff David Gee have been in the forefront not only in fully embracing and supporting the training but in being out on the street with their officers, protesters and media on a daily basis,” Osterreicher said.
Hillsboro County Sheriff David Gee does a “liveshot” via Skype at the scene of police protester confrontation near the Tampa Convention Center during the Republican National Convention. Photo by Mickey H. Osterreicher.
Mauricio Rodriguez, assistant city attorney for Tampa, said that he was pleased by the way officers and protestors have handled themselves to this point during the RNC. Rodriguez said that the city being proactive and communicating with protestors and the press has helped to keep the waters calm during the hurricane-blighted convention.
That sentiment was shared by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office public information officer Larry McKinnon, who said that his office values First Amendment rights and works to keep officers informed of how to deal with protestors and the media.
“We’ll never arrest a protestor,” McKinnon said. “We’ll only arrest people breaking the law who happen to be protestors. We encourage the right to protest so long as you’re obeying the law.”
McKinnon credits the NPPA for helping to prepare Tampa law enforcement for the event. McKinnon notes that in chaotic times officers will not always be perfect, but that the goal of the sheriff’s office is to make sure that mistakes are corrected so everything runs smoothly.
“The NPPA didn’t come down here saying you better do it this way or else,” McKinnon said. “Mickey knows it’s not gonna be perfect, but that if there was an issue then it would be resolved the best way possible.”
After a 2008 convention season that saw scores of arrests of protestors and journalists during clashes with police, spokeswoman Laura McElroy of the Tampa Police Department said that the department has been excited that there have been few issues to date. She credits the NPPA for helping to not only train officers but keeping the media in the know for the convention.
“There is a big disparity between what the officers expect and what the media expect at events like these,” McElroy said. “We are trying to bridge that disparity.”
The RNC concludes on Thursday. RNC organizers are still preparing contingency plans in the event that Hurricane Isaac derails planned events for the last day of the convention. The Democratic National Convention, which is hosted in Charlotte, N.C., will take place from Sep. 4-6 and NPPA will be there as well.
Posted in Access, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, FL, Florida, Hillsboro County Sheriff's Office, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording, Recording Police, RNC, Tampa, Tampa Police Department | No Comments »
July 7th, 2012 by Justice Warren and tagged Access, copyright, national press photographers association, NPPA, Photo Rights Agreement, photojournalism, Pikes Peak International Hill Climb
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) received clarification from Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) today regarding PPIHC’s credentialing process for photographers and its policy on copyright ownership of photographs taken at the event.
PPIHC’s clarification comes in response to a letter sent by the NPPA yesterday after photographers had expressed concerns over PPIHC photograph policies.
“I have received a number of inquiries from members concerned about the language and terms set forth in this agreement and I have my own questions regarding the applicability and propriety of these requirements and ‘grant of rights’ as they pertain to photojournalists,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for NPPA.
PPIHC’s “Photo Rights Agreement” states that “PPIHC owns the rights to any photos taken and copies of the photos will be provided to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb upon request.” The agreement further states that there is a $250 fee to obtain “2012 photo rights.”
Neither PPIHC’s photo rights agreement nor its official media guide makes a distinction between commercial and media photographers in regards to credentials and fees. In a conversation with Osterreicher, a PPIHC spokesperson explained that the photo rights agreement does not apply to photojournalists, but only to photographers who sell their photos to the public.
Osterreicher said that, while it is encouraging that PPIHC will not charge photojournalists or assume ownership over their photos, the fact that the agreement applies to “non-commercial” photography may still confuse photographers, who typically associate the term with editorial photography. Osterreicher also expressed concern that freelance photographers may be denied credentials, as the PPIHC credential application states that accreditation may only be issued to “approved” news organizations.
Though the application period for obtaining media credentials closed in June, PPIHC has expressed the intent to reopen the credentialing process in light of the race’s rescheduling due to the recent and widespread Colorado wildfires. Osterreicher said that the rescheduling offers an opportunity for race organizers to clarify their policy in a way that prevents confusion and encourages access for photographers, which in turn will benefit the PPIHC with more media coverage.
According to its website, the PPIHC is the second oldest motor sports race in America. NPPA attorney Alicia Calzada said that a general concern stemming from events such as PPIHC, which largely takes place on public roads, is that their organizers place restrictions on photography although the event is taking place in a public place where anyone has a right to take pictures.
“No permit should be needed to take pictures from public streets and sidewalks- although given safety issues inherent in racing, local police can certainly impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on these places,” Calzada said.
Posted in First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Public Photography, Regulations limiting photography | No Comments »
June 28th, 2012 by Justice Warren and tagged first amendment, Mickey Osterreicher, National Press Club, national press photographers association, NPPA, Photographers rights
Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), spoke at the National Press Club (NPC) in Washington, D.C. on June 27, 2012 where he warned NPC members of ongoing issues concerning copyright infringement and the assault on the right to photograph in public places.
“It’s vital for citizens and journalists to know their rights when taking pictures or recording in public places. It’s even more crucial that police departments have appropriate policies and continuously train their officers regarding those rights,” Osterreicher said following the speech.
Osterreicher, who spoke to the NPC last January on a similar topic paid particular attention to the increasing prevalence of police interfering with the rights of the public and the media to photograph in public places. He noted that there have been a growing number of arrests of citizens and photographers who take pictures, particularly those who have documented activist gatherings such as the Occupy protests.
Osterreicher attributed the increase in these incidents to the widespread proliferation of cameras and smartphones, which make it possible for anyone to photograph and record matters of public concern and then provide that material to the rest of the world via the Internet. He said that police nationwide have shown a reluctance to allow such documentation, and have often responded with hostility and threats of arrest.
“I think it’s the culture of the police,” Osterreicher said. “Their idea of serve and protect often means protecting people and other officers from having their pictures taken.”
The NPPA has come to the defense of many of these photographers, both professional and amateur, because of its belief that government officials should never be left to determine what is or is not a newsworthy picture or story. The organization urges offending police departments to drop charges and to adopt policies that do not interfere with the public’s right to photograph.
Osterreicher talked about training sessions he has held with several police departments on how to interact with the press, his work with the Chicago Police and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press during the NATO Summit and his preparations for the upcoming national political conventions.
He said he offers this service whenever he writes to police departments that have had incidents with photographers. “People ask me ‘Why do you write so many letters?’” Osterreicher said. ”Well, the answer is that it’s cheaper than bringing a lawsuit. It’s cheaper for everyone, but as the police so often say ‘we can do this the easy way or the hard way,’ I think that a letter is the easy way but in some recently filed lawsuits NPPA has provided support against those departments and officers who blatantly violated our members’ constitutional rights.”
Osterreicher also spoke about instances in which police have taken cameras and phones and deleted photos or compelled the person who took the photos to do so. He reminded members of the NPC that under no circumstances do officers have the right to delete or destroy photographs or video.
Osterreicher said that he is hopeful that incidents like these decline once police are educated and trained regarding the rights of the press and public to photograph and record.
“The police aren’t going anywhere. The media isn’t going anywhere. We need to find a way to do our jobs without interference.”
Posted in Access, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, Cameras, cell phone cameras, Chicago Police, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, law, Lawsuit, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording, Recording Police, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, video cameras | No Comments »
May 8th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher
Illinois Rep. Elaine Nekritz, has sponsored a new bill that would amend the draconian measures found in the state’s current Eavesdropping law. SB 1808 amends the Illinois Criminal Code concerning eavesdropping exemptions and provides that a person may record the conversation of a law enforcement officer who is performing a public duty in a public place and any other person who is having a conversation with that law enforcement officer if the conversation is at a volume audible to the unassisted ear of the person who is making the recording.
The bill also defines “public place” and provides that if a recorded conversation authorized under this exemption is used by a complainant as part of the evidence of misconduct against a police officer and is found to have been intentionally altered by or at the direction of the complainant to inaccurately reflect the incident at issue, it must be presented to the appropriate State’s Attorney for a determination of prosecution.
Current Illinois law permits videotaping officers in public but criminalizes the interception of oral communication (audio recording) without the consent of all parties. A conviction on such a felony charge could result in a 15 year jail sentence. Some recent prosecutions under the current law have resulted in acquittals and in others the trial court judge found the statute to be unconstitutional. Supporters of the bill believe it strikes the right balance between the reasonable expectation of privacy and the First Amendment by allowing citizens to audio record law enforcement officers performing public duties in public places.
In a similar case, Glik v. Cunniffe, the United States Court of Appeal for the First Circuit found the public and the press have a “co-extensive” right to record officers in public places. In another case, Sharp v Baltimore City Police, the United States Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in support of such recordings. The ACLU has challenged the constitutionality of the Illinois Eavesdropping statute in ACLU v Alvarez and a decision is expected by the Seventh Circuit any day. The Chicago Police Department recently announced that it would not seek to enforce the law during the NATO Summit scheduled for later this month.
NPPA submitted Comments in support of a previous bill that recently failed in the House by 15 votes. Not surprisingly police organizations opposed that measure citing fears that people might edit or alter the recordings to use as evidence of officer misconduct. The new bill addresses those concerns. According to Rep. Nekritz, the new bill “would address some high-profile prosecutions that occurred under the existing eavesdropping law of citizens who have done nothing more but take out their cell phones and record a police officer performing public duty.”
The State Journal-Register, The Southern, Chicago Sun-Times, and Chicago Tribune have all written editorials in support of this measure and it is also supported by the Illinois State Bar Association, Illinois Press Association and the American Civil Liberties Union. The bill has already passed out of the Houses Judiciary Committee on Civil Law and will be brought to the floor sometime in the next few weeks.
Posted in Access, ACLU v Alvarez, cell phone cameras, Chicago, Chicago Police, DOJ, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Glik v Cunniffe, Illinois, Illinois Eavesdropping Law, Illinois General Assemby, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Reasonable Expectation of Privacy, Recording, Recording Police, Rep. Elaine Nekritz | 1 Comment »
April 3rd, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged Access, first amendment, journalism school, journalist, Legal, newspapers, photojournalism, recording, video
The Attorney General in Arkansas issued an opinion letter ruling on Monday confirming that a city council in the state did not have the right to ban video recordings of public meetings.
The Associated Press is reporting that the White River Current newspaper sought an official opinion from the AG’s office after the local city council in Calico Rock banned recordings from its meetings. The newspaper had posted council meeting videos on YouTube.
Three questions were posed to the AG, including
1) whether or not the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act granted citizens a right to make a video recording of a public meeting of elected officials?
2) whether a claim that recording is “disruptive” because a council member is uncomfortable being recorded, sufficient reason to ban recording.
3) whether or not the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants citizens the right to record public officials in performance of their duties.
A: No- the First Amendment does not grant peopel the right to make a tape recording of a public meeting.
In an eleven page opinion, the AG said, in summary:
When one reads the FOIA broadly to foster greater openness and more disclosure—as we are required to do—I believe there are good grounds to conclude that our FOIA affords persons the right to videotape a public meeting. According to my research, this also accords with the law in the overwhelming majority of states. But, in response to your second question, the right to videotape a public meeting is subject to the public body’s reasonable regulation. While such regulation cannot ban videotaping, the regulation can ensure that the activity is done in a manner that does not disrupt the meeting. In my view, the mere fact that a member of the public body is uncomfortable being filmed is not a sufficient reason to ban the videotaping. When it comes to videotaping public meetings, the FOIA appears to give greater rights than does the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because—in response to your third question—the amendment does not give people a right to videotape public proceedings.
The opinion is loaded with interesting case law and citations to various state FOI decisions. See in particular footnotes on page 3, for an analysis of various states and the right to record public meetings, with citations to rules expressly permitting recording in Indiana, South Carolina and Kentucky. The opinion can be found at this link.
Posted in Access, blogging, broadcasting, First Amendment, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Public Forum, Public Photography, Reasonable Expectation of Privacy, Recording, Regulations limiting photography | 1 Comment »
March 30th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher
In January of this year Stephen Horrigan, an NPPA member was charged with felony eavesdropping and misdemeanor obstruction for using his cellphone to record a traffic stop by police officers in North Port, Florida. Horrigan came out of his nearby home to see what was going on and determine the newsworthiness of the situation. For doing nothing more than that, as he stood with other members of the public, he ended up spending a night in jail while facing a five year prison term if convicted on the eavesdropping charge. Adding insult to injury the police seized his phone as “evidence” and held it until recently.
On January 30. 2012 NPPA sent a letter to North Port Police Chief Kevin Vespia, strongly objecting to “the treatment and arrest of NPPA member and freelance photojournalist Stephen P. Horrigan.” The letter went on to state “in addition to the arrest, the fact that Mr. Horrigan’s camera was unlawfully seized is also extremely troubling. We believe that his video of the incident will show that officers acted in an arbitrary, capricious and unprofessional manner and appeared to have no concept of the First and Fourth Amendment rights granted under the United States Constitutions as well as similar protections provided by Florida law.” The letter concluded with the request “that the charges against Mr. Horrigan be immediately dropped; that his equipment and any recordings made by him be immediately returned; and that this incident be fully investigated. We further request that your department immediately issue orders directing officers to cease such activity and also that your department implement revised training for all officers regarding these matters.”
This case was covered extensively in the press by Billy Cox of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and Carlos Miller of Photography is Not a Crime. As a justification for trampling on the rights of a citizen they produced a Probable Cause Affidavit and also referred to “a legal guideline that our officers have read and discussed during roll call. The issue here is not the video portion but the audio portion. This is the current guideline we use for cases like these. The guideline was issued by the legal counsel of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and permission was granted for distribution,” according to North Port Police Captain Robert Estrada, in an email.
After reviewing that “January 2010 North Port Police Bulletin #10-12″ along with a Law Enforcement News Letter the NPPA sent a scathing email back to Captain Estrada and Chief Vespia citing cases and correcting the misinformation provided in the bulletin concerning the circumstances under which there may and may not be a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Although there had been some positive dialogue between NPPA and the North Port Police there was no response to the email or even acknowledgement that it had been received.
In February an attorney from the Florida ACLU, Andrea Mogensen agreed to represent Mr. Horrigan, who as of March 11, 2012 had still not heard from the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) as to whether they planned to move forward on the original charges. On March 13, 2012 the Herald-Tribune printed a column by Eric Ernst supporting Horrigan’s’ position. Shortly thereafter Horrigan filed (on his own) a Motion for Hearing: A Plea for Relief from Prior Restraint seeking the return of his smartphone, battery and memory card, and alleging, among other things that the seizure of those items violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 4 of the State of Florida Constitution as being a form of prior restraint on his ability to publish that material. He also asserted that as the operator of “a web-site news-gathering ‘blog’ and dues paying member of the National Press Photographers Association” he may not have any greater rights under the First Amendment than the public but that he enjoyed no less right because of it.
A week later a detective came to his house at 7am to tell him that he could pick-up his phone at the evidence room. In utter surprise he found that the video had not been deleted, although he believes that it had been viewed or copied. He posted it on YouTube for everyone to see. So far it has over 4,200 hits. The Herald- Tribune posted an editorial urging police, prosecutors and legislators to improve their guidelines, training and practices and also revise the eavesdropping statute.
Yesterday the SAO declined to prosecute and dropped the charges, noting in a memo that the people could not meet their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt and also questioned whether the officer had an expectation of privacy in this instance. As for the “resisting, obstructing, or opposing an officer without violence charge,” State’s Attorney Eric Werbeck concluded that Horrigan did not meet any of the elements constituting that crime either.
While the NPPA is gratified to see that prosecutors had the common sense to drop these charges (as has happened in almost all such cases around the country) it is too bad that the North Port police did not use the same good judgment. As is often said in police parlance “we can do this the easy way or the hard way.” The latter choice resulted in six-figure settlements in two recent cases. Once again, it appears that police ignorance and arrogance concerning constitutional rights may result in another costly combination, ultimately born by taxpayers who can ill afford it.
In a late-breaking development Ms. Mogensen announced in a press release that she has filed a notice with the City of North Port claiming monetary damages in excess of $200,000.00 based upon false arrest, retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment rights, and malicious prosecution.
Posted in Access, confiscated, detained, False Arrest, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Florida, FLorida ACLU, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, Lawsuit, Legal, Malicious Prosecution, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Forum, Public Photography, Reasonable Expectation of Privacy, Recording, Recording Police, retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment rights, Search and Seizure, video cameras | 4 Comments »