NPPA Advocates for Members' Rights on Concert Images, Court Coverage & Use of Drones

Recent days have been particularly active on the advocacy front, with NPPA protecting members’ First Amendment rights across the country, commenting on issues like photographers’ rights to photos taken at concerts, coverage of court proceedings in New York, and on drone registration.

Many artists are requiring photographers and news organizations to sign over their copyright to images taken at concerts in exchange for a credential, according to NPPA’s general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher.

“We find that rather disturbing given the fact that some of those same artists talk about their intellectual property rights and how important they are, and yet don't seem to respect the fact that photographers and news agencies also have those same intellectual property rights,” said Osterreicher.

He went on to explain that many artists are also asking for prior approval of images published in the news. “If somebody has prior approval of what you're doing, you're not being a journalist,” Osterreicher said.“You're basically acting almost as a publicist for them.”

NPPA helped draft an open letter  to performing artists, which was joined by a number of news organizations regarding these issues.

“What effect it's ultimately going to have, I'm not sure, but I think the key here is to make the public aware of the fact that these things are being asked of photographers,” said Osterreicher.

NPPA, along with 13 other organizations, also filed comments to update and revise rules regarding the audio-visual coverage of court proceedings in New York.

New York is one of the few states that does not allow journalists to record witnesses testifying under oath, according to Osterreicher.

He also said that the defense bar in New York is opposed to having cameras in the courtroom because they say it negatively impacts the ability of defendants’ rights to a fair trial.

“I believe the reason is they would much rather be able to tell the public what went on in the courtroom standing on the steps of the court house than allow the public to actually see for themselves what goes on inside the courtroom,” he said.

There was an experiment in New York from 1987 to 1997 where cameras were allowed, and the results found that “if anything it made the public more aware as to what goes on in courtrooms and found that there was no negative impact on a defendant's Sixth Amendment rights to a fair trial,” said Osterreicher.

“We hope that New York comes along and some of these changes are implemented to allow more access to courts,” said Osterreicher. “We also wanted, and encouraged the Office of Court Administration to distinguish between still photography and audio-visual coverage, because the law in New York only addresses and bans audio-visual coverage, not necessarily still photography.” NPPA also filed comments with the Federal Aviation Administration this week regarding the registration of drones. According to Osterreicher, the FAA will announce that drones will need to be registered, and the NPPA wanted them to know they were concerned about unintended consequences of the registration. “We're concerned that the registration requirements will allow law enforcement officials, under the pretext of checking for registration, to interfere with, harass and possibly sometimes either arrest or fine photographers, and in particular journalists who are otherwise legally using a drone for news gathering,” he said.