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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attention to the lack of transparency in this powerful branch of government and to urge the Justices to change this outdated restriction.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 lawyer@nppa.org

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 groth@skdknick.com.

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 | 5 Comments »

Smithsonian Security Guards Confront Photographer Filming Protest

December 10th, 2013 by Wills Citty and tagged , , , , , , , ,

A veteran photographer is looking for answers after he was accosted by Smithsonian security guards while recording fast food workers protesting at the museum last week.

Kristoffer Tripplaar was at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum to document workers who walked off the job and picketed Thursday as part of a national campaign demanding higher wages. Tripplaar was recording a confrontation between security officers and a fellow photographer, when he says he was pulled into the fracas.

Tripplaar says it started when a security guard pushed the other journalist towards him.  Worried that his equipment would be damaged, Tripplaar leaned forward to take the incoming blow with his body, and in the process collided with the officer.  A second officer quickly approached, claiming Tripplaar had struck his colleague, and a third tackled the photographer to the ground.

Tripplaar says the violent exchange was completely unwarranted, telling Photographer Is Not a Crime “I can’t emphasize enough that I did not lay a finger on the officer.”

Video of the incident shows three officers smothering the photographer, who appears to be trying to protect himself and his equipment.

Tripplaar’s description of the acting supervisor’s reaction to the incident seems to confirm that the security guards overreacted:

“As I was on the ground a security officer that identified himself as a supervisor came over, told them to let me go and offered to help me up. I told him I would not get up until he made the three security officers back off because I was afraid they would grab me again. Once they backed off, I got up and went back to photographing the protest.”

But the ordeal wasn’t over yet:

“Once the protest inside the food court wound down, I approached the supervisor who had helped me to ask for the names of the officers who had grabbed me, one of which was standing next to him. When I did that they both began pushing me towards a door saying it was time for me to leave.”

Tripplaar has contacted the Smithsonian’s press office to file a complaint, and says he’s shocked by the guard’s behavior.

“I’ve been doing this for almost ten years. I cover everything from the White House to the Capitol. I’ve done countless protests, some of them got pretty heated and a little pushy. And I’ve never, ever, ever had something like this happen to me. Ever.”

Posted in Access, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | 61 Comments »

Federal “Suspicious Activity” Reporting Initiative Threatens First Amendment Rights

September 20th, 2013 by Wills Citty and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“I observed a male nonchalantly taking numerous pictures inside a purple-line train.”

If this excerpt from a Federal “Tip and Lead” report out of Los Angeles doesn’t necessarily convince you that a crime is afoot then you’re probably not alone.  Nonetheless, that photographer, and many others like him, are now in a federal database under a plan to single out people who may be planning terrorist activity

The problem with the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (SARI) is that many of the activities it targets seem well, unsuspicious.  Worse yet, many of those questioned under the program were engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.  Despite revisions to try to improve the program, people are still being added to the database who appear to have been doing nothing wrong.  The offense of a man recently added to the database: being “very unfriendly.”  Another was reported for buying a large quantity of cigarettes.  Both individuals were of Middle Eastern decent.  While the language initiative specifically prohibits racial profiling, a cursory investigation of what files are available suggests people are occasionally targeted for their race.   The measure also appears to have the effect, intended or otherwise, of targeting photographers in particular.

Today, in a continued effort to raise awareness of the program and improve its operational standards, the ACLU released a series of the federally collected reports online.  The NPPA joined the ACLU and 25 other organizations in a letter demanding reform. The groups also held a press conference in San Francisco addressing the impact of Suspicious Activity Reporting (“SAR”).

One of the central issues with the SAR initiative stems from confusion over what behavior falls within the programs purview.  The 2009 revised standard for the Director of National Intelligence Information Sharing Environment (ISE), one of a pair of programs that make up the initiative, defines suspicious behavior as observable actions “reasonably indicative of pre-operational planning related to terrorism or other criminal activity.”  Further, the revision makes clear that “the same constitutional standards that apply when conducting ordinary criminal investigations also apply to local law enforcement and homeland security officers conducting SAR inquiries.”  The media groups applauded this as an improvement over previous versions of the program, but note that “the failure to clearly state that ISE policy did not authorize the collection, retention or dissemination of personally identifiable information in violation of federal regulations . . . has led to confusion and abuse.”

In addition, The FBI’s eGuardian program, the other arm of the initiative, does not meet the higher standards of the ISE.  The continued reporting of non-threatening behavior suggests that this disjoint is one of the causes of the problem.

Today’s letter also observed that “Based on the SARs obtained thus far, photography and videography are frequently reported without additional facts that render these constitutionally-protected activities inherently suspicious. This reporting trend matches anecdotal reports from photographers who frequently complain that they are not only detained and questioned, but are also prevented from taking photographs and video and deprived of their equipment by police.”

The NPPA has been involved with dozens of similar incidents.  They are troublingly common, even without a federal program that enables, if not encourages their occurrence. “As part of the ‘See Something Say Something Program’ the NPPA is deeply concerned that these policies create an unnecessary climate of fear and suspicion throughout the country under the guise of safety and security for otherwise First Amendment protected activity,” said NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher.

Among the reforms suggested in today’s letter, the groups recommended the government “[re]move photography and other activities clearly protected by the First Amendment from inclusion in lists of SAR categories or other guidance criteria to prevent the unlawful stops, detention, and harassment of photographers, videographers, and journalists.”

Such a revision would be a step in the right direction to ensuring valuable First Amendment activities are not illegally obstructed, and that it’s the people who are monitoring the government, and not the other way around.

Posted in Access, ACLU, California, cell phone cameras, Department of Justice, DOJ, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording, SAR, Street Photography, Suspicious Activity, video cameras, Visual Journalists | 173 Comments »

NPPA Files Joint Brief With RCFP & Other News Media Groups Supporting Right To Photograph Government Horse Roundup

September 13th, 2013 by Wills Citty and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Today the NPPA, along with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and supported by other news media organizations, filed a legal brief in support of a photojournalist’s claim of a right to access wild horse roundups on federal land.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is set to again consider whether the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated wild horse advocate Laura Leigh’s First Amendment rights when it  restricted her ability to photograph a 2010 horse roundup.

Leigh was trying to take pictures of BLM personnel corralling horses in the Nevada scrub when officials demanded she stay in designated public viewing areas.  The views from these locations were obstructed, and Leigh’s wasn’t able to get the pictures she needed, according to court documents.  Monitoring  how the government handles these roundups is important, as they involve removing a vulnerable species from it’s natural habitat.

In the days following the incident, Leigh sought an injunction to prevent the land bureau from restricting public access in the future.  Since then, the case has seen its share of legal wrangling.  The injunction has been alternatively granted and overturned on several occasions.  Now, the appellate court that sent the case back to the lower court last year is set to hear it again.

Though the case involves a relatively specific issue, it implicates a privilege of paramount importance: the right of the press and public to monitor the government.  More specifically, this case is a matter of the extent of access the press and public should be allowed in pursuing that privilege. “Government activities need press access and review, particularly where they occur in remote and deserted locations that the public is unlikely to frequent,” said  Jean-Paul Jassy of the law firm Bostwick & Jassy LLP who authored the brief along with Kevin L. Vick of the same firm, with input from Gregg P. Leslie, Legal Defense Director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and Mickey H. Osterreicher, NPPA general counsel.

Like many First Amendment liberties, the right to access government activities is not absolute.  Certainly, some government actions involve serious danger or demand confidentiality to the extent that some restrictions are reasonable. The courts have developed a test for balancing the government’s interest in keeping people away from certain situations against the people’s right to know (usually provided by press coverage) in seeing what their government is doing.

Articulated in Press-Enter. Co. v. Superior Court of California for Riverside Cnty., 478 U.S. 1, 8,  the “experience and logic” test considers 1) whether the activity in question has historically been open to the press and general public and 2) whether public access plays a significant positive role in the function of that activity.  The stronger these questions are answered in the affirmative, the heavier the burden on the government to demonstrate an “overriding interest” that warrants restriction.  The government also must show that these restrictions are narrowly tailored to serve that interest.

In the case at hand, the lower court found that 1) wild horse roundups have traditionally been open to the public and 2) open access plays an important role in “protecting the interests of the overpopulated horses and news gathering for the benefit of the public.”

However, the court ruled in the government’s favor.  The U.S District Court judge found that the access restrictions were warranted by concerns over safety and effective horse gathering.   The NPPA and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press strongly disagree. Our objections were outlined in the brief to the Ninth Circuit:

“The court afforded too much discretion to the Government to decide whether observing the gathers was safe, without recognizing that journalists routinely – and critically – face far more dangerous situations on a regular basis without official interference or protection.  [T]he court below denied meaningful public and press access to the horse roundups, while sustaining unconstitutional restrictions on such access.”

The press groups contends that the restrictions as they stand do not allow meaningful access to the roundups.  Photographers simply cannot get adequate images from the locations they are relegated to.  Further, the government has not presented convincing evidence that the roundups are dangerous to the point that such restrictive locations are needed.

This is especially so, the brief notes, because viewing “large, remote operations like wild horse roundups is not an option for most people,  [and] the media act as public surrogates, conveying those images to a vast public audience and enabling the public to satisfy its civic duty in monitoring the government.”

“The BLM restrictions on access are very similar to those used to limit recording police activity in public places as well as being analogous to the right of access to courtroom proceedings,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher. “We also pointed out to the 9th Circuit in our argument and with an appendix of photographs, just how uniquely important and compelling visual images are to the newsgathering process,” he added. “We are hopeful that the Court will take judicial notice of that important distinction in our favor,” Osterreicher added.

Laura Leigh is represented by Gordon M. Cowan. His brief may be read here. The other news media organization that joined in the brief were: the American Society of News Editors, The Association of American Publishers, Inc., the First Amendment Coalition, Battle Born Media LLC, the Los Angeles Times, the Student Press Law Center, the National Press Club, National Public Radio, Inc., The Nevada Press Association, the Reno Gazette-Journal, The Seattle Times Co., Stephens Media LLC and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Posted in Access, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Regulations limiting photography, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press | 47 Comments »

NPPA Submits Comments Regarding Orphan Works

January 26th, 2013 by Joan Blazich and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA) has, in response to a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) by the Copyright Office, submitted comments on the issue of orphan works and mass digitalization. The Copyright Office has solicited comments for use in advising Congress on how to address current issues involving copyright and orphan works.

These official comments, written by NPPA attorneys Mickey Osterreicher and Alicia Calzada, with contributions from board member Greg Smith and NPPA intern Joan Blazich, discuss the issues currently facing visual journalists regarding copyright and propose solutions for creating a system which would treat copyright holders and users of orphaned works fairly and efficiently.

The comments state that “NPPA is gravely concerned that in seeking to address the frustration of ‘good faith users’ of Orphan Works in order to cure their potential liability and ‘gridlock in the digital marketplace,’ the Copyright Office may create a far more serious problem for authors/owners of visual works.” The comments also note that “As visual journalists, our members are squeezed from every side by onerous contracts seeking all rights for little compensation, the proliferation of user generated content by publishers and the widespread infringement of visual works by individuals and organizations. While we understand and appreciate the concerns of those in the copyright community who need to use Orphan Works, we believe it is crucial to protect the copyright of recently created visual works that, for whatever reason, appear to be orphaned when, in fact, they are not.”

NPPA attorneys Osterreicher and Calzada plan to attend the Copyright Office’s public hearings on orphan works once dates and times for those hearings are announced. As more visual journalists face situations in which their images are misappropriated under an ”orphan works” claim, the NPPA proposes that if any legislation is enacted, it must include language that protects authors from predatory practices by those who would infringe upon our members’ work with impunity under the protection of a new law.

“Photographers are lucky to have advocates like Mickey, Alicia, Greg and Joan, who spend a great deal of time examining these issues and and how they will affect our members and all those who create content,” said NPPA President Mike Borland.  “The orphan works issue won’t be resolved soon and it certainly won’t be resolved properly without our voice being heard,” he added.

In accordance with that goal, the comments recommend significant limitations on what works qualify as orphans and which users would be entitled to such  protection. In addition, the NPPA advocated for registration of any uses of orphan works, along with a bond or insurance requirement to protect rights holders’ financial interests in the event they come forward to make a claim.

To read the NPPA’s comments, click here. To read the Copyright Office’s current NOI, click here. To read about previous Copyright Office inquiries on the subject of orphan works click here.

Posted in copyright, copyright infringement, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, Orphan Works, Photographers' Rights, U.S. Copyright Office, Visual Journalists | 73 Comments »

NPPA Joins Lawsuit Against NYPD

October 22nd, 2012 by Joan Blazich and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today the National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA) announced that it was joining 5 elected officials and almost a dozen members of the press in a lawsuit against the New York Police Department (NYPD) and JP Morgan Chase. The lawsuit alleges that the City of New York, the MTA, the NYPD, Brookfield Properties, and JP Morgan Chase conspired to violate the First Amendment rights of press members who were arrested while covering the “Occupy Wall Street” protests. The amended complaint seeks both redress against police misconduct during these arrests and that a federal independent monitor be appointed to observe future NYPD incidents involving the press.

NPPA joins this lawsuit on behalf of its 7000 members, including Plaintiff Stephanie Keith. Recently awarded the Newswoman of the Year Award by the Newswoman’s Club of New York, Ms. Keith was arrested twice while covering the Occupy Wall Street protests. “I joined this lawsuit because as a working journalist I’ve been arrested, thrown to the ground, hit with batons and yelled at by the NYPD while doing my job on assignment” said Ms. Keith. “I have seen my fellow journalists being treated this way as well. Why should journalists be subjected to trauma inducing harassment on the job?”

Sean D. Elliot, President of NPPA, stated that NPPA joined the lawsuit so that “it can effectively address the continuing course of conduct by the NYPD against its members and others that has chilled our Constitutionally protected rights to gather and disseminate news.”

Other plaintiffs in this lawsuit were quick to praise NPPA for joining as a new party. “We are pleased and honored to have the NPPA join our efforts, and we look forward to working with them towards the goals of justice, accountability and freedom of expression,” said Sam Cohen, one of the attorneys at the helm of the case. Yetta Kurland, a civil rights attorney assisting with the case, remarked that “The NPPA and other members of the press play a vital role in getting the message of OWS out to the world. Arresting the press isn’t just an attempt by the City and JP Morgan Chase to suppress the press and freedom of speech and expression, but also to suppress the message of Occupy.”

Posted in Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, Commissioner Raymond Kelly, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Lawsuit, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NYPD, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording Police | 35 Comments »

NPPA Submits Comments Regarding A Copyright Small Claims Court System

October 22nd, 2012 by Joan Blazich and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The National Press Photographer’s Association (NPPA) has, at the request of the Copyright Office, submitted comments concerning the creation of a copyright small claims court system. These comments constitute the second round of commentary requested by the Copyright Office over the possibility of instituting a small claims copyright court system.

These official comments, written by NPPA attorneys Mickey Osterreicher and Alicia Calzada, with a significant contribution by board member Greg Smith and NPPA intern Joan Blazich, discusses the issues currently facing photojournalists regarding copyright and presents potential solutions for creating a court system that would permit an efficient and cost-effective method of addressing copyright small claims.

“While much of the advocacy by NPPA deals with access issues and the right to photograph and record in public; it cannot be understated that without the ability to affordably protect one’s copyright visual journalists will soon be out of business,” Osterreicher said. “That is why it is so important that the Copyright Office support a new initiative that will address this critical issue,” he added.

The Copyright Office will hold public hearings on these issues in New York City on November 15-16, 2012 and in Los Angeles on November 26-27, 2012. It is holding these discussions to learn more about the topics listed in its August 23, 2012 Notice of Inquiry and the comments submitted in response to that Notice, as well as the comments in response to the initial October 27, 2012 Notice of Inquiry.

The New York City hearings will be held at the Jerome Greene Annex of Columbia Law School, 410 West 117th Street, New York, New York 10027. The November 15 hearing will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and the November 16 hearing will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The Los Angeles hearings will be held in Room 1314 of the UCLA School of Law, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90095. The November 26 hearing will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and the November 27 hearing will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

NPPA attorneys Osterreicher and Calzada plan to participate in those meetings to advocate for NPPA’s proposals. As many photojournalists face situations involving copyright claims that amount to a limited amount of damages, the NPPA strongly supports the creation of a copyright small claims court system by the Copyright Office that would permit photojournalists to resolve such claims in an expedited and cost effective manner.

Read NPPA’s comments here:

Posted in copyright, Copyright Small Claims, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, U.S. Copyright Office | 59 Comments »

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