General Counsel for NPPA Weighs In On Media Issues Surrounding Party National Conventions

August 24th, 2012 by Advocacy Intern and tagged , , , , , , , ,

Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), offered his legal expertise in a webinar Thursday night in which panelists discussed media issues surrounding the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Tampa, Fla., and the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, N.C.

The webinar, entitled “Reporting at the Conventions : Safety, Security & Rights,” featured journalists and policy experts who offered their advice on how to act and what to look for while covering the events.  Josh Stearns, the Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director at Free Press, led the discussion that focused primarily on arrest issues and Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizures.

“I think one of the things that drew [the panel] together was the concern for finding ways to support journalists as the demographics of journalism are changing, and we’re seeing more and more freelance, independent, and citizen journalists out there on the front lines covering these sorts of events,” Stearns said.  “We want to provide tools, networks, resources and support for those journalists.”

The panel featured Natasha Lennard and Susie Cagle, two journalists who shared their experiences of being arrested while covering Occupy protests.  The panel also featured Andy Sellars, who works for the Digital Media Law Project at Harvard’s Berkman Center.

The webinar gave viewers a chance to interact and direct questions to the panelists about issues particularly concerning to them.  In light of the increase of freelance and citizen journalists, one pressing concern involved distinguishing one’s self from protestors and the extent to which media credentials would protect journalists from police interference.

Osterreicher, who will attend both the RNC and DNC, told viewers that only officially issued credentials will be honored and valid for inside security perimeter areas, and that prohibitions against certain items may make it difficult for anyone without those credentials to carry out their assignments.

“The problem is that for both of these conventions, I think the secret service are pretty much setting the tone for these things,” Osterreicher said.  “”It’ll be interesting to see what happens when people are carrying some of these prohibited items to the credentialed area.”

Sellars informed viewers that his group had published a guide on the state of the law in Tampa and Charlotte that will help journalists better understand what to expect while covering the conventions.

“Both Tampa and Charlotte have passed ordinances that prohibit certain items,” Sellars said.  “The trick is that you have to think about these things from the perspective of law enforcement.  It’s not what your intent is so much as what the police think your intent is.”

The RNC runs from Aug. 27-30, while the DNC runs from Sep. 4-6.  For more information on the issues discussed during the webinar, a recording of the event can be seen here.

Posted in Charlotte, Democratic National Convention, First Amendment rights, FL, Florida, National Press Photographers Association, NC, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Press Credentials, Republican National Conventiob, Tampa, U.S. Secret Service, Uncategorized | No Comments »

First Amendment Ruling from the Supreme Court

June 28th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , ,

Though the attention of the nation today is focused on the Supreme Court’s Health Care ruling, it should not be missed that the justices released an important First Amendment decision, striking down the Stolen Valor Act by a vote of 6-3. The Act made it illegal to lie about receiving a medal or military decoration. The bottom line appears to be that “falsity alone may not suffice to bring the speech outside the First Amendment.”

You can read about the decision here:

Those arguing for the law to be upheld said that false speech had no value and therefore should not be protected by the First Amendment.

The NPPA was part of a coalition of 24 news media organizations that signed on to an amicus brief arguing that the Act would make the government the arbiter of truth and allowing punishment for false speech would eviscerate press freedom.

The brief can be found here:

Supporting the notion that the most appropriate way to fight disagreeable speech is with more speech, and in the marketplace of ideas, the court said:

The Government has not shown, and cannot show, why counterspeech would not suffice to achieve its interest. The facts of this case indicate that the dynamics of free speech, of counterspeech, of refutation, can overcome the lie. Respondent lied at a public meeting. Even before the FBI began investigating him for his false statements “Alvarez was perceived as a phony.”  Once the lie was made public, he wasridiculed online, his actions were reported in the press, and a fellow board member called for his resignation. There is good reason to believe that a similar fate would befallother false claimants.

The entire decision can be read at this link:


Posted in First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, Uncategorized | No Comments »

NPPA Responds to Rough Treatment of Photographer by Nev. Police

June 20th, 2012 by Advocacy Intern and tagged , , , , ,

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) sent a letter to Sheriff Haley of the Washoe County (Nev.) Sheriff’s Office today requesting that the department conduct an investigation regarding an incident in which sheriff’s deputies injured and detained a photographer covering a brush fire earlier this week.

Sixty-year-old photojournalist Tim Dunn suffered scrapes to his hands and face on Monday while attempting to photograph a fire in Sun Valley, Nevada, after he was thrown to the ground and handcuffed by sheriff’s deputies and cited for obstruction and resisting.

“This is just the most recent incident in a rash of similar police abuses across the country,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for NPPA.  “While in some situations the press may have no greater rights than those of the general public, they certainly have no less right of access on a public street.”

Dunn, who has worked for the Reno Gazette-Journal for the past 21 years, was not arrested following the incident despite being physically manhandled by the deputies.  Sheriff’s Deputy Armando Avina confirmed that the incident occurred but would not comment on it because reports of the case had not been completed.

NPPA’s letter to the sheriff also requested that the charges against Dunn be immediately dropped, and that the department issue orders directing deputies to cease such activity against photographers.

“While not an expert on Nevada law, it has been my experience that a person must be physically obstructing an officer and that mere presence does not satisfy the elements of that crime,” Osterreicher said.  “Using the catch-all charge of resisting against a 60-year-old, well respected photojournalist is reprehensible.”

Dunn was covering a brush fire that destroyed two homes when he said he was told to leave the area and directed to a location farther away.  Dunn said he complained that the location was too far away to take photographs, and that he and Capt. John Spencer got into a heated conversation.  It was then that Dunn said one deputy shoved his foot into the award-winning photographer’s back to get him on the ground and another deputy pushed his face into the gravel.

“It appears that all of your personnel acted in an arbitrary, capricious and unprofessional manner and appear to have no concept of the First Amendment rights granted to the press under the United States Constitution and Nevada Statutes,” said Osterreicher in his letter to the sheriff.  “NPPA stands ready to work with your department to help develop reasonable and workable policies and practices in order to avoid similar situations.”

Beryl Love, Gazette-Journal executive editor, said there have been multiple instances in the past year when staffers were denied access to scenes where they had a right to be.  Love said the newspaper is preparing a formal complaint to local law enforcement and advising Dunn on possible civil actions.

Dunn said the deputies accused him of impersonating a firefighter by wearing yellow protective fire gear and a helmet and goggles.  Sierra Front Media Fire Guide, published by a coalition of state and federal agencies, recommends wearing these items while covering fires.

Dunn said that he was detained for more than half an hour after being handcuffed.  He said he is disappointed by Monday’s incident and confused as to why the deputies responded in the way they did.

An Aug. 1 court date is scheduled for Dunn’s charges of obstruction and resisting.

Posted in Access, First Amendment, National Press Photographers Association, photographers, Police, Uncategorized | No Comments »

NPPA meets with Copyright Office

March 23rd, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Representatives of the National Press Photographers Association met a couple of weeks ago with attorneys from the United States Copyright Office to discuss copyright small claims solutions and other copyright issues important to photojournalists.

NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher, NPPA Executive Director Mindy Hutchison, and NPPA Attorney and Advocacy Chair Alicia Calzada took a break from the weekend’s Northern Short Course in Fairfax, Virginia to met with the General Counsel of the Copyright Office and two policy attorneys from the office in Washington, D.C.

Calzada and Osterreicher at the Copyright Office in DC. Photo by Mindy Hutchison.


NPPA submitted official comments to the Copyright Office back in January, outlining the challenges that photojournalists have relating to copyright claims, particularly smaller claims, and sharing the organization’s view of what we would like to see in a solution for small copyright claims. Friday’s meeting allowed NPPA to expand on the topics raised in the comments and answer questions from the Copyright Office.  Any small copyright claims solution would likely require passage from Congress.

Click here to read a copy of NPPA’s official comments to the Copyright Office.



Posted in copyright, Copyright Small Claims, District of Columbia, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Farm Photography Bills pass in Iowa, Utah

March 10th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The first two in a series of so-called “Ag-Gag” bills has been enacted into law. The bills, different versions of which have been pending in over half a dozen states, target animal rights activists but frequently are written in broad language that impacts other lawful First Amendment activity.

Iowa was the first state to pass a bill, in early March, making access to an agricultural facility by “false pretenses” illegal. It was heavily amended from its original version. The introduced version of the bill would have made recording while on the farm without the consent of the owner a misdemeanor (and a felony for a second offense) and made mere possession of photographs or video resulting from the earlier act a crime. Thankfully, that version did not pass- it would have been easily found unconstitutional. To put this into perspective, the only other category of photography that is a crime to possess is child pornography. In fact, just a couple of years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to criminalize the possession of video depicting animal cruelty.

A bill making photography of farm operations without the consent of the owner illegal has passed in Utah. The Utah state senate passed HB 187 and it is headed to the governor for a signature. An amendment was made after the NPPA and several other groups protested the original language of the bill. The bill makes it a crime to photograph “agricultural operations” without consent of the owner.  There was no distinction in the original version of the bill for private vs. pubic property, and the wording left open the possibility prosecution for photographing animals grazing on public lands. The bill was amended to clarify that “agricultural operations” is “private property” and passed with that language. However the bill is still problematic as it takes a crime- trespassing- and makes it subject to a greater punishment (a Class A misdemeanor vs. a Class B misdemeanor) because the added element of a First Amendment activity is involved.

A bill pending in New York, would criminalize the “unauthorized video, audio recording or photography done without the farm owner’s written consent.” Like certain proposals NPPA objected to in the last, there is not even a limitation in this bill that the photographer be trespassing. As written, it would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison, or a fine of $1,000 to stand on the side of the road and photograph farm animals or farm.

Even bills which makes it a crime to take photographs on a farm while trespassing are problematic because an essential element of the crime is photography. It is a content-based restriction (with a specific list of what would be in the photograph that would convert an otherwise law abiding photographer into a criminal).

The application of these laws to photographic activity will be subject to constitutional scrutiny. NPPA will continue to monitor and oppose these bills as we have done in the past.

NPPA is drafting a model release for photographers in Utah and Iowa to bring to assignments on property that could be considered an agricultural operation, or otherwise subject to this law.

If you are aware of pending legislation that would affect photographers, please alert us at [email protected] or [email protected]





Posted in ag-gag, Cameras, contracts, First Amendment, Iowa, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Recording, Regulations limiting photography, Uncategorized, Utah, video cameras | 1 Comment »

NPPA Comments to the Copyright Office on Copyright Small Claims

January 18th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , ,

On Tuesday the NPPA submitted official comments to the U.S. Copyright Office in response to the office’s request for comments on the idea of creating a system to adjudicate copyright infringements when the damages are low, also called Remedies for Small Copyright Claims.

The brief, written by NPPA attorneys Mickey Osterreicher and Alicia Wagner Calzada, with a significant contribution from board member Greg Smith, outlines the challenges specific to photojournalists, notes characteristics that would be important in the solution and presents ideas for framing a system.

A claim for copyright infringement can only be brought in federal court, but lawsuits in federal court cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, making it rare that a photojournalist will find the claim worth bringing. In addition, the rapid turnaround of news photography makes it virtually impossible for photojournalists to register their work prior to publication, which results in increased risk in bringing a case. Although a successful copyright plaintiff can sometimes get an award of legal fees, there is no guarantee that the defendant will be able to pay those fee. As the comment notes, “For those infringements that are discovered, most will never be prosecuted because it is economically unfeasible for the creators to commence an action in federal court.”

A small claims solution for infringements that are not worth hundreds of thousands of dollars would increase the ability of photojournalists to police their work and get compensated fairly for violations of their copyright.

NPPA is looking forward to working on this potential solution with the copyright office and with other photo organizations.

Read the official final_Copyright Small Claims Comments 01-17-12-1




Posted in D.C., Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, photographers, photojournalism, Uncategorized | No Comments »

District of Columbia Will Seek to Clarify Street Photography Rules

November 27th, 2011 by Alicia Calzada

The Attorney General of the District of Columbia has told NPPA that he intends to seek a change in the District’s “Street Photography” regulations to clarify the definition of street photography. NPPA recently wrote the Attorney General inquiring about licensing regulations for street photographers and complaining that the regulations are broadly written in a manner that could allow a wide variety of professional photographers to be caught up in the ordinance.

AG Irvin B. Nathan stated in a letter to the organization that the regulations are intended for photographers who shoot exclusively on the street and solicit passers-by for immediate sale of the photographs.

While Nathan maintained his position that the current regulations do not infringe on First Amendment rights, he agreed that it would be beneficial to define the term “street photography” in the regulations to ensure that it only applies to its intended target.

Nathan indicated plans to seek an insertion of the definition into the regulations and promised to keep NPPA informed of the change. We’ll keep members up to date.

Read the original story on the regulations and the letter here.

Read Irvin Nathan’s letter to NPPA here.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

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