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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Media Companies File Amicus Brief Arguing That Broad Drone Regulations Violate First Amendment

The Wall Street Journal reports on media companies' opposition to strict federal restrictions on drones:

Some of the largest U.S. news organizations are accusing the Federal Aviation Administration of infringing on their First Amendment rights by effectively prohibiting them from using drones for reporting in the country. 
Fourteen news organizations, including the Associated Press, New York Times Co. . . .. , and Tribune Co. . . . , filed a joint brief in a high-profile legal case that is testing the FAA's legal authority to regulate drones. 
In the brief, the media groups criticized the FAA's "overly broad policy" that restricts use of commercial drones in the U.S., saying it violates the First Amendment right of newsgathering and has already had "an impermissible chilling effect" on some journalists' reporting.
I blogged previously about the administrative decision by the National Transportation Safety Board that invalidated the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) fine. I think that there are some interesting First Amendment questions raised by strict drone regulations, since the use of drones in journalism are becoming increasingly commonplace. Jason Koebler at Motherboard surveys how journalists are turning to drones:

Meanwhile, some journalists have started using drones to document the news—in Connecticut, a TV-station producer flew a drone over the aftermath of a car accident. The FAA has said it’s looking into the issue. Last week, a storm chaser in Arkansas used a drone to document a tornado in the state—the FAA similarly said that it’s “looking into” the issue. The FAA has also grounded drone journalism programs at the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska.
The FAA is planning to release proposed rules governing the use of drones in November, and this brief will hopefully alert the agency that it will need to keep the First Amendment in mind when it is drafting its regulations.

Here is the brief itself:

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