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This Could Be the Year for Drone Journalism

Poynter's Benjamin Mullin has a piece about how 2016 could be the breakout year for drone journalism because the FAA is slated to issue new rules about the commercial use of drones: "It will be a watershed development for American photojournalism writ large, one that will put relatively inexpensive aerial photography, videography and airborne sensors in play for journalists across the United States."

The most common use will be taking footage of land, especially during times of disaster. Currently, the FAA is allowing some media organizations to use drones, but their drone operators have to have pilot's licenses. Under the new rules, journalists and other commercial drone operators would be able to get an alternative licensure to a pilot's license in order to be approved to operate drones.

PA Right-to-Know Law Permits Photographing of Public Records

Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law allows public records to be photographed, rather than requiring that photocopies be paid for, The Allentown Morning Call's Paul Muschick reports. Appeals officer Kathleen Higgins said that banning photography of public documents would be like banning someone from taking notes about public documents.

Colorado Lawmakers Delay Legislation to Criminalize Drone Photography

Colorado lawmakers have delayed a vote on legislation that would criminalize the use of drones and other surveillance technology to photograph or monitor people, the Associated Press reports. The legislation would make it a crime first-degree trespassing to take images of someone with a reasonable expectation of privacy. One legislator said the bill, as drafted, would be a "'teribbly sweeping criminalization of photography.'"

The sponsor asked for a delay in the vote on the bill in order to rework it.

Rhode Island Lawmakers Want to Restrict Drone Photography

Five Rhode Island lawmakers had introduced drone legislation that would make it illegal for drones to take pictures or videos of private buildings without permission, Media General's WPRI 12's Allison Gallo reports. Other legislators have introduced legislation to create a panel to study how other states are regulating drones.

The Federal Aviation Administration has just released long-awaited rules to integrate drones into the American airspace, but those rules aren't expected to become final for two years or more.

Supreme Court Won't Review Wedding Photographer's Penalty for Boycotting Same-Sex Union

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the case of a New Mexico wedding photographer who refused to work at a same-sex wedding ceremony, USA Today reports: "The case would have posed an important constitutional question with potentially sweeping implications: whether merchants whose products are inherently expressive must serve customers even when it conflicts with their beliefs." The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that turning down customers on the basis of sexual orientation violates the state's anti-discrimination law.

Wedding Photography Case at the Crossroads of LGBT Rights and Free Speech

Eugene Volokh and Ilya Shapiro, writing in the Wall Street Journal, say that they support same-sex marriage but that a discrimination case against New Mexico photography business owners who don't want to photograph same-sex wedding and commitment ceremonies would make bad law. The New Mexico Human Rights Commission, in a decision upheld by the New Mexico Supreme Court, found that Elane Photography is subject to state's antidiscrimination law and must accommodate the public. "Creators of expression have a First Amendment right to choose which expression they want to create," they argue.

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to take up the case later this month.

Should There Be a Small-Claims Copyright Board For Photo Fair Use Disputes?

The New York Times reports on the copyright issues photographers face: "Technological advances, shifting artistic values and dizzying spikes in art prices have turned the world of visual arts into a boxing ring for intellectual-property rights disputes. Photographers, in particular, are complaining not only that their work is being stolen by other artists, but also that their ability to create new work related to their originals is also being compromised." At issue is whether fair use protects must of that alleged infringement. Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers, told the Times they would like to see a small-claims copyright board created by Congress to resolve the bulk of disputes, most of which are in the range of a few hundred dollars. But Osterreicher also said that a legislative fix isn't likely anytime soon.

First Amendment v. Same-Sex Marriage: New Mexico Wedding Photographer Seeks US Supreme Court Certiorari

After the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that a wedding photographer's refusal to photograph same-sex weddings violates the state's Human Rights Act, the photographer is seeking certiorari in the US Supreme Court. SCOTUS Blog reports that the photography business argues that complying with the law forces them to violate their Christian beliefs and violates their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. If the court takes up the issue it could set the parameters on how far protections for gay Americans will extend.

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