Sec. 9.1(a)(2) makes it a crime to “Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility” which was taken without permission of the owner.
Sec. 14.1.b makes it a crime to “Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the crop operation which was” taken without permission of the owner. -from Iowa House Bill HF589, passed March 17, 2011
We’ve covered states’ moves to criminalize the recording of police activity previously. Now, bills introduced in Florida and Iowa state legislatures would make photography, video, or audio recording of agricultural operations illegal without written permission of the farm’s owner. In Florida, violations would be punishable by up to 30 years in prison, according to the proposed Senate Bill 1246 (SB 1246). A similar law (HF589) passed the Iowa state House of Representatives. In a Washington Post article, agricultural industry representatives and lawmakers say the Iowa bill is intended to stop animal rights organizations from filming undercover videos that misrepresent farming operations. Wilton Simpson, a Florida farmer, says that the bill is needed to protect the intellectual property of his farming practices.
Both bills, frighteningly, don’t limit their protections to images or recordings taken while on farm property. For instance, section 3.7 of Iowa’s HF589 defines a “crop operation” as “a location where a crop is maintained, including but not limited to a crop field, orchard, nursery, greenhouse, garden, elevator, seed house, barn, or warehouse.” Under my reading of the bill (and I’m not a legal scholar), these aspects of a farm operation could not legally be photographed without permission, even if the recording or images are taken from public property. The Iowa bill would further criminalize anyone who possesses or distributes such images, reversing a 2001 Supreme Court ruling that allows news organizations to distribute recordings even if the recordings are obtained illegally. The NPPA says the Florida is similarly broad and would criminalize images or recordings taken from a public space.
If you’re in Florida or Iowa, contact your legislators.
UPDATE (22 March 2011): The Florida bill has been amended in two important ways: the crime has been changed from felony to misdemeanor, and the proposed bill no longer makes it a crime to photograph farm operations from public places, limiting the scope of the bill only to recordings made while trespassing.
(via the NPPA Advocacy Committee blog, which reports the NPPA has contacted lawmakers in Iowa regarding the bills)