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Drone Camera Tornado Coverage Raises Press Freedom Questions 143

retroworks (652802) writes "In the latest tornado and storm tragedy to hit the U.S.'s south and midwest, small drone cameras steered by storm-tracker and videographer Brian Emfinger gathered stunning bird's-eye footage of the wreckage. Forbes magazine covers the [paywalled] Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's speculation that Emfinger has violated FAA rules which prohibit commercial use of small drones. The laws, designed years ago to restrict hobbyists use of model airplanes, may conflict with U.S. First Amendment free press use. So far, nothing in the article says that the FAA is enforcing the rule on the media outlets that may pay Emfinger for his video coverage, but interest in the footage will probably create a business economy for future commercial drone use if the FAA does not act."
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Drone Camera Tornado Coverage Raises Press Freedom Questions

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  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @10:15AM (#46888677) Homepage Journal

    The difference between taking a video with a drone and posting it on youtube, and a reporter taking a video and showing in a news report is essentially zero.

  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @10:25AM (#46888761)

    The laws, designed years ago to restrict hobbyists use of model airplanes, may conflict with U.S. First Amendment free press use.

    This makes no sense.

    Yes, the press has freedom, which means they can't be restricted by government in what they report.

    They do not, however, have carte blanche to ignore laws and safety regulations.

    Being told you're not allowed to operate a drone for commercial purposes doesn't mean your press freedom is being restricted. It means you cannot operate a drone for commercial purposes due to safety regulations.

    Has America completely lost its grasp of the difference between what you're "free" to do, and what is (and should be) regulated?

    I keep hearing conservatives whine about how their freedom of speech is being infringed because there are consequences to the shit they say.

    Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from consequences. You're free to say it, but if the customers basically say "we're not buying your product" they're not cutting of your free speech, they're exercising yours. (Especially (mo|i)ronic since the conservatives are the first to call for boycotts and shouting down people who disagree with them.)

    The press bitching they can't do illegal things in the pursuit of news (which these days is whatever is most salacious to get ratings) is the same thing -- your press freedom doesn't supercede laws. You also can't commit murder, break traffic laws, kidnap, of commit a break and enter.

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @10:38AM (#46888845)

    Has America completely lost its grasp of the difference between what you're "free" to do, and what is (and should be) regulated?

    Many Americans have a skeptical view of authority, and I think that it is justified. For every regulation implemented for our safety, there are a handful of jackasses abusing the situation. Drone flights during rescue operations may very well be a hazard, and banning them during such operations probably has some merit. On the other hand, whatever law is in place to enact such a ban will invariably be abused to prevent someone from seeing "something they shouldn't" in the judgement of some bureaucrat.

    We see this all the time with some of these insane penalties for computer crimes that are inflicted on well-meaning hackers. Even when they end up causing some grief, we throw penalties at them which are meant for organized crime, large-scale financial fraud, and terrorism.

  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @10:41AM (#46888877) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, tell that to both William Jefferson Clinton and Andrew Jackson, who were brought up on charges during their presidency(even if in the former case it was a pathetic blow-up of an adultery scandal).

    Oh, and Richard Nixon, who had to be pardoned by his stool pigeon replacement.

  • by advocate_one ( 662832 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @10:43AM (#46888883)
    from private pilots operating small planes and helicopters as drones are stealing their "business" opportunities...
  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @10:49AM (#46888931)

    Actually: []

    I suspect that all it will take is some paparazzi crashing their drone into some famous persons house (you know, someone whos opinion the government actually cares about) and they'll link that story to story to the one above and "I could have been killed!" yada yada and drones will be banned for civilian use to protect our movie stars. You know it's only a matter of time.

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @10:49AM (#46888933)
    The Freedom of the Press is not an absolute right. If it were absolute, then a reporter could break into my house anytime he wanted in order to get a news story.

    Only when this case makes it to the Supreme Court will we know whether drone usage in these types of cases are legal. Until then, there will be lots of discussion.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @11:00AM (#46889023)

    The point being made is that just because they have to follow FAA rules, does not mean that their first amendment rights are being violated. You're not allowed to fly big human carrying helicopters over there without the appropriate paperwork filed, and that doesn't violate your first amendment right. Similarly, meeting the right conditions to fly a drone does not violate them either.

  • wtf? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @11:23AM (#46889229)

    The difference between you catching a fish and cooking it for dinner, and a commercial trawler catching the fish and selling it to a supermarket works out about the same way. Around here (for Pacific salmon at certain times), sport fishing is legal, commercial fishing is not.

    The difference between you picking some wildflowers in a hiking park and putting them in your hair, and some corporation sending squads of migrant laborers to pick all the flowers in the park and sell them to florists... same thing.

    Videotape a movie from television and watch it again later, or even give a copy to a friend: ok at least morally, by Slashdot standards. Rebroadcast it on your own commercial TV station with ads that you've sold: hello lawsuit.

    Micropower noncommercial FM broadcasting: OK some of the time, depending on which way the wind is blowing. Sell ads: need FCC license and spectrum allocation.

    Fucking glibertarians, it really does make a difference why you do something. Activities which are benign if done occasionally but destructive if done on large scale, and for which there isn't much motivation other than profit for doing at scale, can be handled most non-interferingly(?) by eliminating the profit potential and saying it's ok to do it for personal use only. Some hobbyist flying a drone around isn't likely to interfere with aviation or cause massive privacy invasion. Millions of corporate and government drones: not so much. Forget news media: are you ready for a Google drone over your neighborhood 24/7?

    Simplest way to handle the "free speech" issue might be just declare any broadcasts of drone video by news media to be in the public domain immediately. Eliminating the copyright would kill a lot of the commercial value, while leaving it possible to broadcast stuff that's newsworthy.

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @11:28AM (#46889273)
    There are only so many people with press passes. I think a valid concern is that there will simply be too many drones buzzing around disaster areas, creating hazards for rescue operations (especially helicopters and planes). Beyond the vicinity of airports, aircraft traffic has largely been handled by "everybody keep your eyes peeled and don't hit each other, mmmmkay?" But that is going to break down in the near future if there is a big increase in the number of aircraft, particularly small ones that can't be seen for a long distance.

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak