Enact Commonsense Drone Rules

March 3rd, 2016 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , ,

Amidst all the hysterical reports that the sky is falling or it’s literally raining drones, Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis recently introduced a thoughtful Micro Drone amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Act (AIRR Act). The amendment would create a new “Micro UAS Classification” of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), improving safety, access and compliance while also encouraging innovation. For the first time, micro drones would be permitted for commercial purposes, appropriately advancing what many believe to be the smallest, safest and fastest-growing sector of the UAS community. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee very commendably voted to accept that amendment without any voiced opposition and then approved the entire AIRR Act, as amended.

It is crucial to note this legislation would not deregulate the use of UAS, but rather proposes regulations containing five commonsense rules that are easy to remember and follow. In fact, many of these rules already exist to oversee safe practices for the recreational use of drones. Under the new amendment, micro UAS (mUAS) would be required to operate at: “(1) less than 400 feet above ground level; (2) at an airspeed of not greater than 40 knots; (3) within the visual line of sight of the operator; (4) during daylight; and (5) at least 5 statute miles from the geographic center of an airport [with an exception for those who provide notice and obtain permission].”

In response to this legislative initiative the FAA announced the formation of an aviation rulemaking committee composed of industry stakeholders to develop recommendations for a similar regulatory framework. Representatives for a coalition of  more than a dozen news organizations (including NPPA) will participate as committee members.

Given the complicated and often-disregarded current FAA regulations for small UAS (sUAS), which includes every type of unmanned system under 55 pounds, we can only hope this bill will be enacted as approved and then implemented as quickly as possible. We believe that adopting the micro UAS rule will be far more effective in approving and regulating commercial use than waiting for a final FAA rule under the current Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, petitioning for a Section 333 Exemption, or operating a UAS “unlawfully” in fear of FAA enforcement action.

It is widely accepted that people are far more likely to abide by commonsense rules that impose the least burdensome restrictions. This is true for operators of small unmanned aircraft systems as well. The current proposed FAA requirements that are expected to be in place later this year include aeronautical knowledge testing on eleven topics, traveling to test facilities, and re-testing every two years—requirements that create high barriers for low-risk users, increasing the potential for widespread non-compliance.

The on-going restrictions on most sUAS uses are simply not sustainable or justifiable. Enacting a new category of mUAS subject to risk-based safety and operational restrictions will enable and enhance the safety of all aspects of UAS operations, including, but not limited to: newsgathering, educational, humanitarian and commercial use. It also will relieve the FAA from some of the administrative burdens of granting exemptions for low-risk operations, thus allowing the agency to focus its resources on the more challenging aspects of safely integrating UAS use into the national air space, which is another reason the FAA should immediately begin work to support mUAS approval.

Employing simple and familiar rules that already exist for recreational use and applying them to the smallest and safest UAS category, streamlines the process for everyone (including journalists) by encouraging a culture of safety and widespread voluntary compliance, while at the same time advancing innovation. Hopefully Congress will agree and pass an FAA reauthorization act that includes the mUAS amendment.

Mickey H. Osterreicher is general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) which is part of the News Media Coalition, advocating for the use of UAS for newsgathering. He has met with the FAA and congressional staff to discuss these issues as well as participated in stakeholder meetings held by the National Telecommunications and Information Agency regarding UAS privacy concerns.

Posted in drone, Drones, First Amendment, micro drones, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, small unmanned aerial systems, sUAS, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

Join NPPA Now!

September 10th, 2015 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , ,

To those of you who read the Advocacy Blog or follow us on Facebook and who support NPPA through their membership – thank you. To those considering joining or renewing their lapsed memberships please get off your best intentions and do it today ( For those of you who just take a free ride by viewing the news and information provided by NPPA on our website, Twitter and Facebook, I urge you to join now.

NPPA cannot do the advocacy it does without members and money. It cannot take a leadership position, where 32 major news organizations joined in a letter that I drafted to convince the Governor of California to veto a constitutionally suspect drone bill (, without you.

Aside from your actual dues NPPA receives money from a copyright organization based upon our membership numbers – so think of joining as part of a matching fund. It is unfortunate to report that our membership numbers continue to decrease when commonsense would expect just the opposite.

If you want our advocacy efforts to continue, but moreover, if you want NPPA to continue to be heard as the strong “Voice of Visual Journalists” then please support us and join today!

Posted in National Press Photographers Association, NPPA | 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


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 »

Important Info for Those Covering Ferguson

November 23rd, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

For all NPPA members and visual journalists in Ferguson, Missouri – Please print out the federal court orders below and keep them with you at all times.

Also please contact NPPA general counsel Mickey Osterreicher if you are interfered with or arrested. You may call or text his cell: 716.983.7800 or email

You may also call 800.336.4243, which is the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Legal Defense Hotline.

County Order

Highway Patrol Order

Ferguson Order

Posted in Access, Ferguson, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Recording Police, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Visual Journalists | No Comments »

Court Orders Police in Ferguson Not to Interfere with Individuals Who are Photographing or Recording in Public

November 21st, 2014 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Today a federal judge for the Eastern District of Missouri granting three orders agreed and consented to by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the County of St. Louis Missouri and the City of Ferguson. The orders signed by Judge John A Ross for the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the County of St. Louis enjoins those entities from  “interfering with individuals who are photographing or recording at public places but who are not threatening the safety of others or physically interfering with the ability of law enforcement to perform their duties.”

The order directed at the City of Ferguson more specifically prohibits the city from enforcing or threatening to enforce “any rule, policy or practice that grants law enforcement officers the authority or discretion to arrest, threaten to arrest, or interfere with any individual, including any member of the media or member of the public photographing or recording in public places unless that person is threatening the safety of others or physically interfering with the ability of law enforcement to perform their duties.”

The fact that the orders protect photographers who are not “physically” interfering with law enforcement prevents agencies from claiming that the act of reporting is in itself threatening or otherwise an interference. “Journalists and law enforcement officials share a common responsibility – we all serve the public – raising the awareness of law enforcement personnel about these matters after the fact only means that journalists were prevented from doing their jobs, and because of that, the public was not properly served,” said NPPA president Mark J. Dolan.

In August the ACLU file a lawsuit in federal court against police agencies in Ferguson on behalf of photographer Mustafa Hussein. The complaint sought a preliminary injunction against police policies of demanding and ordering members of the media and public to stop recording the police acting in their official duty on public streets and sidewalks. It also sought to have the court declare that the police policy on its face and as-applied violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments by chilling free speech without due process.

In support of that lawsuit, the NPPA filed a Declaration outlining some of the issues faced by visual journalists as well as how NPPA’s general counsel, Mickey H. Osterreicher, tried to deal with those situations while he was in Ferguson this summer. The bigger issues were the fact that police tried to keep the media in areas they had established rather than allow  access to traditionally open public forums such as sidewalks. Osterreicher suggests that journalists print out and carry the orders to show police who may be in contempt. “While it is gratifying that the police agencies agreed to these self-evident liberties it is still troublesome that they have apparently failed to provide any substantive training regarding constitutional rights. As we have seen time and time again without proper training  p0lice frequently disregard the Bill of Rights and any enforcement orders as just another piece of paper,” Osterreicher said.

NPPA Executive Director Charles W. L. (“Chip”) Deale added, “We are pleased that the court again has recognized and emphasized the important and Constitutionally-protected right of visual journalists to perform their critical news-gathering function free of harassment and undue restrictions. The NPPA hopes and trusts that law enforcement agencies in and around Ferguson will unerringly abide by these court orders.”

The orders resolves the case, but the federal court specifically retains jurisdiction to enforce the injunctions.

Posted in Access, ACLU, Assault on Photographers, Ferguson, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Visual Journalists | 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 »

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 »

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