Update to Florida farm photography bill

M. Scott Brauer - A rancher bales hay for the Big Sky Montana Beef free-range black angus operation outside of Fairfield, Montana, USA.

The NPPA reports that there have been some changes to Florida farm bill SB 1246 (previously) that would make illegal photography or recordings of farm operations without the written permission of farm owners. The Florida Senate Committee on Agriculture approved the bill with two significant amendments: 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. These are important and positive changes in the legislation, but the prospect of increasing limits on photography remains troubling.

Incidentally, our previous coverage of the bill was our most tweeted and shared post in the short history of dvafoto, racking up more than a thousand social media links, thanks in no small part to a tweet by Michael Pollan. I’m glad to see the issue get exposure outside of photography circles.

Two US states move to outlaw unauthorized photos of farming operations (UPDATED)

M. Scott Brauer - Pregnant cattle stand in a holding pen awaiting ultrasounds to determine the progress of their gestation on the Judisch Ranch outside of Ledger, Montana USA.

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)

First Book Prize: Jennette Williams

I have no idea if this is old news or not, as I just stumbled upon it yesterday: The latest winner of the First Book Prize, awarded by Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies and The Honickman Foundation, is Jennette Williams for her project on Women Bathing.
williams05_entire
Williams was selected by Mary Ellen Mark for the biannual prize, and now will have a book published of her work. The last winner was Danny Wilcox Frazier with his terrific project documenting rural Iowa published as Driftless: Photographs from Iowa. He was selected by Robert Frank, you can see some pictures here.
Great work from both, this is a great award and I’m happy to see it out there. Next entry is in 2010 so start planning now