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Judge Orders Sanctions Against Atlanta Police Department for Obstructing Filming Police Conduct

May 14th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , ,

ATLANTA– On May 13, 2015, United States District Judge Steve C. Jones found the City of Atlanta in contempt of court and imposed sanctions for the city’s failure to comply with obligations set forward in a prior Court Order on behalf of a woman whose constitutional rights were violated when she was arrested as she peaceably photographed police activity in 2009.

The Southern Center for Human Rights, along with Atlanta based attorneys Daniel J. Grossman and Albert Wan, presented arguments on April 28, 2015, for civil contempt sanctions against the City of Atlanta in Anderson v. City of Atlanta, et al. The plaintiff, Felicia Anderson, brought this case against the City of Atlanta and one of its police officers for falsely arresting her as she photographed police arresting her neighbor. The parties ultimately reached a settlement on Ms. Anderson’s claims in 2012. In addition to damages, the parties agreed to a Consent Order requiring the City of Atlanta to permanently revise and implement a number of APD policies and trainings that would set strict limits on officer’s interference with citizens documenting police activity.

In November 2014, several reporters covering the Ferguson demonstrations in downtown Atlanta had their cameras taken away from them by APD officers as these individuals attempted to film police activity. One of them was a photojournalist for 11Alive News, whose arrest by police officers during his coverage of the protests has been the subject of numerous news stories. Another was a reporter for Creative Loafing; Atlanta police officers intentionally stopped him from taking photos during the protest, grabbed his camera, and then arrested him, even as he and his editor repeatedly told the officers that he was a reporter. These are but a few examples of the actual damage that came to light as a result of the City’s failure to abide by this Court’s order, including interference with citizens and reporters filming police.

Judge Jones stated, “The Court finds Defendant in contempt for violating the March 2012 Order… and it now imposes sanctions to bring Defendant into full compliance and to address future monitoring of Defendant’s compliance with the Order.”

“The Court has now found the City in contempt based, in part, on the City’s own admissions that it failed to comply with the Court’s Order,” said attorney Albert Wan. “ The next few weeks and months will be telling. Will the City treat the Court’s order with the seriousness it deserves, or will it revert back to its old ways? All eyes are on the City to see what it will do, and they should be. As recent events have shown, the public’s right to document police conduct is an important one, and the City needs to recognize that. It can start by fully complying with the Court’s Order.”

Judge Jones ordered the following:
• Permanently implement the revisions to the Atlanta Police Department Standard Operating Procedures set forth in the Court’s March 2012 Order
• Conduct mandatory, in-person training of all Atlanta police officers every two years regarding the Standard Operating Procedure revisions set forth the Court’s March 2012 Order
• Within forty-five days, the Chief of the Atlanta Police Department shall issue a Command Memorandum to each APD officer attaching a copy of the 2012 Consent Order, requiring that it be read and signed. The City of Atlanta shall provide the Court and the Plaintiff with a sworn statement attesting that this has been accomplished within ten days after the 45-day period of compliance has expired. The City of Atlanta shall be fined $10,000 per day after the 45-day period of compliance has expired if the City of Atlanta fails to comply.
• Within forty-five days, the City of Atlanta shall provide in-person, roll call training consistent with the industry standard to every police officer of the Atlanta Police Department on every revision to the Atlanta Police Department Standard Operating Procedures required under the March 2012 Order. The Atlanta Police Department is required to video solely this portion of the Atlanta Police Department’s in-person, roll call training. The City of Atlanta must provide Plaintiff’s counsel with a copy of each video within ten days of the in-person, roll call training. The City of Atlanta shall be fined $10,000 per day after the period of compliance has expired if the City of Atlanta fails to comply.
• The City of Atlanta, within five days, must report to the Court and Plaintiff any revisions made to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) at issue in the 2012 Consent Order.
• The City of Atlanta will reimburse Plaintiff’s counsel for a portion of fees and costs associated with ensuring compliance with the Court’s Order.

“Almost every week we see the crucial importance of citizen video as a tool for police accountability. It is a shame that City Hall fought against this for almost six months, and that it took a federal judge to hold the city in contempt and order it to provide the training that even Atlanta’s police officers themselves were asking for,” said attorney Daniel J. Grossman.

“It should not have taken over three years for the Atlanta Police Department to respect citizens’ rights to video police conduct as required by Judge Jones order. The Court has shown, and the national conscience has shown, that cameras are an important tool in ensuring police are held accountable,” said Southern Center for Human Rights attorney, Gerald Weber.

To read the Contempt Order go to: Atlanta Contempt Order – Anderson 05-13-15

Posted in Access, Atlanta Police Department, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording Police | No Comments »

Some Practical Advice about Covering High Conflict News Stories

April 28th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

See the attached document containing some practical advice about covering high conflict news stories.

Issues covered:

  • Legal
  • Local Ordinances
  • Federal Trespass
  • Resources
  • Important items to have with you
  • Potential for arrest
  • Complying with police orders
  • Being questioned and detained
  • Protecting your files
  • Arrest & release
  • Practical advice
  • Preparation
  • Your equipment

These have been put together as a result of covering the NATO Summit in Chicago in 2012 the political conventions in Tampa and Charlotte later that year and the demonstrations in Ferguson in 2014.

For more information please contact:

Mickey H. Osterreicher

Cell 716.983.7800

Email lawyer@nppa.org

Twitter @nppalawyer

 

 

Posted in Access, Baltimore Police, Baltimore Riots, cell phone cameras, Ferguson, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, Legal, Maryland ACLU, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording Police, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment rights | No Comments »

NPPA Joined by 17 Groups Protest Forest Service Photo Permits

October 1st, 2014 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The National Press Photographers Association, joined by seventeen news organizations, photographers’ organizations and First Amendment advocacy groups sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief, Thomas L. Tidwell, opposing the Forest Service’s proposal to make permanent its interim directive on filming in the nation’s wilderness areas. The letter expressed the groups concern that the proposal would apply new criteria in deciding whether to issue a permit for filming in Congressionally-designated wilderness areas as well as the permanent directive’s vague language and failure to make a clear distinction between still photography, film and videography for newsgathering purposes and “commercial” film and still photography.

Tidwell has been quoted recently in the media as saying the “US Forest Service remains committed to the First Amendment,” but Osterreicher, on behalf of the organizations, explained in the letter that the language of the “provisions in the draft directive” does not make it clear that it does “not apply to news gathering or activities” and urged the Forest Service “to  work closely with us to craft an unambiguously worded policy that protects not only our natural resources but our First Amendment guarantees.”

The letter also expressed the groups concern “not just for individuals traditionally identified as newsgatherers, but also for freelance visual journalists and members of the public who may use cameras on a speculative basis to photograph or film activities on public lands without an assured media outlet for their work.”

Of even greater concern to the group is “that a permit could be arbitrarily denied because a member of the Service with such authority might believe that a news story did not comport with the vague notion of protecting ‘wilderness values.’” The group contends that “the proposed permanent policy limits far more speech than is necessary to achieve the government’s stated purpose. Not only does requiring a permit for ordinary newsgathering create a chilling effect on freedom of speech and of the press, but also granting/the Service the ability to deny such a permit in the case of a journalist or news organization would, we believe, create an unconstitutional licensing obligation or  – worse – a prior restraint on those newsgathering activities.”

Those joining in the letter were: American Photographic Artists, American Society of Media Photographers, American Society of News Editors, Associated Press, Associated Press Media Editors, Associated Press Photo Managers, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, Digital Media Licensing Association, National Federation of Press Women, National Newspaper Association, National Press Club, Newspaper Association of America, North American Nature Photography Association, Radio Television Digital News Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Society of Environmental Journalists and Society of Professional Journalists.

 

 

Posted in Access, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Permits, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, US Forest Service | 1 Comment »

Texas Court Upholds the Right to Photograph and Record Police Activity

July 26th, 2014 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

In an important ruling in Texas, a federal judge held that the right to record police activity is a clearly established right protected by the First Amendment.

In a civil rights lawsuit, Antonio Buehler alleged that his constitutional rights were violated when he was arrested by the Austin Police Department multiple times for taking pictures of police activities. Buehler was first arrested when he came upon a police scene at a gas station, where he began recording the arrest because he felt that excessive force was being used. After that arrest, he formed a group called the “Peaceful Streets Project” and began regularly documenting police activity. He was arrested again and again for documenting police activity, according to the lawsuit.

In an effort to get the lawsuit dismissed, the Austin Police Department claimed “qualified immunity” which protects state officials from suit. However, qualified immunity is not available if officials violate a clearly established constitutional right. In their argument, APD claimed that the right to photograph or videotape police officers “is not recognized as a constitutional right”.

In an order released Thursday, the federal judge in the case held that not only is there a constitutional right to document police officers, but that the right is clearly established. Magistrate Judge Mark Lane held that “the First Amendment protects the right to videotape police officers in the performance of their official duties, subject to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.”

Continuing, the judge wrote:

If a person has the right to assemble in a public place, receive information on a matter of public concern, and make a record of that information for the purpose of disseminating that information, the ability to make photographic or video recording of that information is simply not a new or a revolutionary expansion of a historical right. Instead the photographic or video recording of public information is only a more modern and efficient method of exercising a clearly established right.

Buehler’s attorney, Daphne Silverman told NPPA, “Antonio and I are pleased with Judge Lane’s ruling upholding the First Amendment right to document police conduct. This is a win for the citizens and should be of no concern to honest police officers.”

The NPPA filed an amicus brief in the case last month in support of Buehler’s position, whose case will now go forward.

See also, http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/crime-law/federal-judge-upholds-activist-antonio-buehlers-ri/ngnbp/

Posted in Austin Police, blogging, False Arrest, Federal Court, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Lawsuit, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording Police | No Comments »

NPPA, Other Media Groups Submit Comments to FAA in Support of Exemptions for Use of sUAS

July 16th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today the NPPA filed comments with the FAA in support of petitions from a number of aerial photo and video production companies seeking exemptions to commercially operate small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS – 55lbs or less) for motion picture and television industry use. The NPPA also joined in the analysis submitted as part of the News Media Coalition’s Comments in Support of Video-Production Companies’ Petitions to the FAA for Section 333 Exemption. That Media Coalition includes: Advance Publications, Inc.; A.H. Belo Corp.; The Associated Press; Gannett Co., Inc.; Getty Images (US), Inc.; Gray Television, Inc.; NBCUniversal, Inc.; The New York Times Company; Scripps Media, Inc.; Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.; and WP Company LLC (d/b/a The Washington Post), represented by Charles D. Tobin and Christie N. Waltz of the Washington, DC law firm Holland & Knight, LLP. The additional comments by NPPA were submitted to reflect the specific concerns of our members and were drafted by NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher and Advocacy Chair Alicia Wagner Calzada, who is also an  attorney with Haynes and Boone, LLP.

As noted, the NPPA has an acute interest in helping the FAA properly expedite the integration of sUAS into the National Airspace System (“NAS”).  We also support exemptions by the FAA that would permit journalists, and in particular visual journalists, to use sUAS for newsgathering purposes. The NPPA reviewed the voluntary and self-imposed “limitations and conditions” proposed in the production companies’ petitions. And while they may be acceptable to those groups, we urged the FAA to decline to adopt or extend them as prerequisites for future exemptions or as future standards in its rulemaking. The NPPA acknowledged that some of those limitations and conditions might be acceptable, but expressed our concerns about others that we deemed to be impractical and which would impose an undue burden on sUAS use for newsgathering.

The NPPA continues to assert that sUAS use for newsgathering is not a “commercial use” and we expect to see tangible benefits if the current exemption requests are granted. Specifically, we would hope that NPPA will also be allowed to “facilitate” exemption petitions on behalf our membership in a similar manner to what has been achieved by the Motion Picture Association of America.

The NPPA also referenced in its comments and filed a copy of our paper written in support of sUAS for use in newsgathering, which also included results from a study we conducted on that subject.

 

Posted in drone, Drones, FAA, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, rulemaking, small unmanned aerial systems, sUAS | No Comments »

California Parks Department Responds to Incident with Film Crew

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

A month after being notified the California Department of Parks and Recreation has responded to a letter sent by NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher regarding an incident during which parks employees detained a news crew and ordered them to delete their footage. KGTV Team 10 reporter Mitch Blacher and photojournalist Arie Thanasoulis were on public property at San Onofre State Beach on April 29, 2013 shooting footage for a story on the San Onofre Nuclear power plant when they were approached by a parks employee who accused them of trespassing, blocked their vehicle and ordered them to stop recording.

That employee, later identified as Bob Warman, then called State Parks Police Officer Ennio Rocca  who arrived and also proceeded to harass and threaten to arrest the pair for doing nothing more than recording video of the plant from an area open to the public.  Officer Rocca in turn called an unidentified employee of Southern California Edison, who arrived on the scene dressed in full SWAT gear. The three of them then ordered the crew to delete whatever video they had already shot under threat of arrest.While the trio claimed the news crew was standing on private property, the “no trespassing” sign they referred to turned out to be for “no parking,” while a fisherman and a woman walking her dog are visible in video footage in an area they alleged was “secure.” Although the news crew complied with the unreasonable demand and deleted a file containing the footage they were able to broadcast a story using video contained on a second file.

In his letter Osterreicher called the actions of the parks officers “a clear violation of the First and Fourth Amendments.” “It is one thing for officers to act when there is probable cause, Osterreicher wrote, “it is quite another to abuse that discretion in order to create a climate that infringes upon free speech under the pretext of safety and security.” He requested that the “matter be fully investigated and the employees properly disciplined if so indicated.” Osterreicher also advised the department by email of another incident that occurred on May 14, 2103 involving its officers, who detained and questioned two other photographers, JC Playford and Gerry Nance, filming near the power plant gate.

Responding to the NPPA, California Department of Parks & Recreation Chief Counsel Claire LeFlore agreed that the officers had overstepped their bounds. “In hindsight, they may have acted with an overabundance of caution while detaining the news crew,” LeFlore said, “but there was never an intention to violate anyone’s constitutional rights.” LeFlore noted that the incident came shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing, and at that “staff was on high alert for the possibility of additional terrorist actions.” Osterreicher responded to that statement in a subsequent interview, saying, “it is indeed unfortunate that well-meaning people still somehow equate an act of terrorism with photography.” “In the Boston tragedy it should be duly noted that law enforcement requested anyone who had pictures or video of the event provide them voluntarily – not delete them,” he added.

The importance of defending sensitive targets is well understood, but, as Osterreicher noted, “in any free country the balance between actual vigilance and over-zealous enforcement is delicate.” LeFlore says all personnel involved in the incident have been counseled on how to properly deal with the press “so that First Amendment rights can be protected and both the press and [parks] staff can carry out their functions with minimal interference with each other.” Officers have also been counseled that there is no legal basis for the seizure or destruction of photographs or video.

Osterreicher also sent copies of his letter to officials from Southern California Edison, the owners of the plant but received no response. In its report 10News quoted a spokeswoman for the utility, as saying, “a security officer ‘responded conservatively when he indicated to a television crew his preference that they stop filming and delete their video.'” Osterreicher also responded to that statement, “Indicating a preference that someone stop filming is a far cry from illegally ordering someone to do so under threat of arrest.” “Aside from being factually incorrect, the arrogance of Southern California Edison in their failure to respond to our letter, unrepentant statements to KGTV and behavior of their employees speaks for itself,” he concluded.

The NPPA has offered to work with the California Department of Parks and Recreation to improve their guidelines and training regarding these matters in order to avoid similar situations. The parks department says it will consider NPPA suggestions in implementing an expanded staff training program.

KGTV reporter Mitch Blacher said in an email, “It is encouraging to see the California state parks police work to remedy the oppression of constitutional rights by their officers,” adding, “As American citizens and working journalists our treatment was highly troubling.” “More questions need to be asked as to why California parks police and staff followed the direction of non-sworn private security personnel instead of the federal and state constitutions they swore an oath to uphold.”  1oNews Special Projects Executive Producer Ellen McGregor added, “As a manager behind-the-scenes, who talked for quite some time on the phone with parks police that day, Mickey’s offer train the agencies on the First and Fourth Amendments proves the NPPA’s commitment to a free press, and the journalists at KGTV are grateful.”

Posted in Access, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, California, detained, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording, Regulations limiting photography, trespass | 175 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 | 12 Comments »

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