NPPA Advocacy Efforts in 2015 Protected Visual Journalists On Wide Range of National, State Issues

By Mickey Osterreicher and Alicia Wagner Calzada, NPPA Advocacy Committee

This was another incredibly busy year for NPPA in the advocacy arena. The association was at the forefront of such issues as First Amendment access rights, use of drones for newsgathering, copyright reform, ag-gag legislation, credentialing and cameras in the courtroom, to name just a few.

Our efforts regarding the First Amendment right to photograph and record in public continued to grow with training programs being presented to law enforcement officers during the annual meetings of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA) and the Legal Officers Section of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). We also were actively involved in creating model policies and training as part of the Public Recording of Police Advisory Committee of the IACP. NPPA also continued its training sessions with law enforcement agencies and first responders in Buffalo and Houston.

We strongly objected to interference with student journalists covering campus demonstrations. NPPA will present a program in January regarding First Amendment issues in public places at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication with the generous support of the university and Sinclair Broadcasting.

NPPA was – and continues to be – one of the leading advocates for the use of drones for newsgathering, testifying before the California legislature and then successfully spearheading an effort to have Governor Brown veto a number of anti-drone bills. We are also part of the News Media Coalition doing testing of drones in cooperation with the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership. NPPA met on several occasions with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials and submitted comments regarding the unintended consequences of drone registration. We are also part of the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) stakeholder group developing Governing Principles Guiding UAS Privacy, Transparency, and Accountability Best Practices.

NPPA submitted a number of official comments to the U.S. Copyright Office in support of a small claims tribunal, as well as comments on mass digitization. NPPA continues to be an active participant in the ongoing hearings held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet. We presented numerous workshops on copyright issues including orphan works, fair use and registration; and participate as advisors to the American Law Institute Restatement of Copyright project. NPPA is an active member of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations, which helps ensure that overseas reprographic rights fees collected on behalf of U.S. photographers are directed in a way that serves and compensates those authors.

Additionally, NPPA took a leadership role in addressing unfair credentialing agreements by performing artists that sought either the copyright or a broad license to photographers’ images in exchange for a few moments of access to the performance. Most recently, we partnered with ASMP to send Time, Inc. a letter seeking a fairer freelance agreement.

Many states have proposed legislation limiting the First Amendment rights of journalists to gather and disseminate news. In the fields of agriculture (ag-gag bills), anti-paparazzi statutes, or revenge porn laws, NPPA successfully opposed those measures or was one of the plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging their overbroad and unconstitutional language.

We continue to work with the U.S. Forest Service in developing a new handbook that clarifies that no permit or fee is required for newsgathering on public land. Just recently we were successful in having a proposed bill amended that would have required an annual permit and fee for film crews of 5 persons or fewer.

We are currently plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the State of Wyoming, working to overturn their “data trespass” law that criminalizes the collection of information, including photographs on open land in that state.

NPPA continues to strongly advocate for audio-visual coverage in the U.S. Supreme Court as well as other states such as New York.

But the greatest challenge to ensuring our voice is heard comes from visual journalists themselves, far too many of whom fail – for a multitude of excuses – to support NPPA (or any organization) as members. There is strength in numbers. Without a strong dues-paying and actively involved member base successful, advocacy is nearly impossible. At a time when we are being squeezed on all sides from access issues, to fair agreements, to copyright infringement of our work, it is more important than ever for us to have a strong presence on all those fronts. Thank you for being an NPPA member – there is no more important time than now to support the organization. Please encourage others to join and work to become more involved in NPPA.