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Drone Camera Tornado Coverage Raises Press Freedom Questions

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the you-may-only-look-toward-the-horizon dept.

The Media 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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143 comments

It depends on the hat you're wearing (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#46888677)

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.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46888729)

When you wear the presidential hat, nothing you do is ever illegal.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (1)

telchine (719345) | about 3 months ago | (#46888805)

When you wear the presidential hat, nothing you do is ever illegal.

Yeah, but Abraham Lincoln did that and it didn't turn out too well.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (2)

Nyder (754090) | about 3 months ago | (#46888851)

When you wear the presidential hat, nothing you do is ever illegal.

Yeah, but Abraham Lincoln did that and it didn't turn out too well.

If you recall, Lincoln was shot a theater and it's normal to remove your hats while attending theaters.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 3 months ago | (#46889029)

When you wear the presidential hat, nothing you do is ever illegal.

Yeah, but Abraham Lincoln did that and it didn't turn out too well.

If you recall, Lincoln was shot a theater and it's normal to remove your hats while attending theaters.

Is getting shot illegal?

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889121)

Yes, but not for you.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about 3 months ago | (#46889939)

I'm pro-vax, I get my shots, hat or not.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46890247)

>>>"Is getting shot illegal?"

No, no, that's just ill-advised. Shooting someone may be illegal, but that appears to depend on the hat you're wearing as well.

The theater appears to be optional in all cases.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (1)

telchine (719345) | about 3 months ago | (#46889203)

If you recall, Lincoln was shot a theater

No, I don't recall! How old do you think I am?!

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#46888877)

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.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (2)

msauve (701917) | about 3 months ago | (#46889007)

Huh? Jerry Ford was an informant? About what, and who'd he snitch on?

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#46889575)

I hereby acknowledge my incorrect usage of the term. Swap in "shill" instead?

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (0)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about 3 months ago | (#46889039)

Impeachment isn't a criminal charge, you can only be fired not go to jail. And Nixon illustrates the immunity from real consequences for illegal acts, if he'd been anyone but the president he'd have gone to jail.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 3 months ago | (#46889401)

There's no denying that proximity to power affords substantial unwarranted protection, but that isn't equivalent to immunity.

Also, for the more historically inclined: I confused Jackson(a douchebag who committed genocide) with Johnson(a guy who didn't obey congress)

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (1)

QuantumPion (805098) | about 3 months ago | (#46889925)

Clinton wasn't impeached for having an affair. Clinton was impeached for pressuring a subordinate intern for sexual favors, lying in court, and pressuring witnesses to lie in court.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889993)

Clinton brought it on himself. The original investigation was into the well known crimes he and Hillary committed back in Arkansas (stock and real estate fraud). As part of stonewalling the grand jury investigation he started a campaign of slandering the special investigator Kenneth Starr. That pissed Starr off so much he expanded the investigation into Clinton's sexual harassment of subordinates; Clinton lied to the grand jury about that, which is what got him into real trouble. The crimes back in Arkansas were concealed well enough that Starr decided not to pursue them against a sitting President.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46888775)

Wasn't there a case recently that decided bloggers were functionally identical to official journalists in regards to freedom of the press? (aside from that detail being obvious with the quality of the news these days)

Still, freedom of the press does not mean that they can get away with arbitrarily breaking laws. A press pass does not mean the cop cannot give you a ticket for going 174 in a 35 zone, and it should have no bearing here. Either the FAA enforces its rules here, or it forfeits the authority to oppress hobbyists RC aircraft owners.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889395)

I thought there was a ruling recently that basically state that an individual (may have been a blogger) has just as much first amendment rights as a journalist. Or in other words, the first amendment doesn't apply just to journalists.

intent: murder vs. manslaugher (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46888811)

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.

Intent is often quite important when it comes to the law, even if the end result is the same: it's the difference between murder and manslaugher for example.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mens_rea

wtf? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:wtf? (2)

chihowa (366380) | about 3 months ago | (#46890125)

Wtf, indeed?

The difference between the commercial and noncommercial things you list is scale. Many things that are allowed for individuals (sport fishing or picking wildflowers (which, by the way, is still illegal for individuals... the difference is in enforcement) are forbidden for commercial interests because the impact of large scale operations is more damaging. Disallowing commercial activities is easier than putting limits in place and ramping up inspection and enforcement for small operations.

The potential audience of a YouTube video is just as large as a press published video, even if the marketing push of the press is larger. Your "argument" doesn't apply in that case.

-=-=-=-=-

You people who are so motivated by your politics that you must attempt to skew and misinterpret reality to fit your current set of political insults are weird. Party politics really are the systematic movement to remove rationality from government. Goodbye Enlightenment and Age of Reason. Welcome back to tribalism and knee-jerk emotional hysterics.

Re:wtf? (1)

chihowa (366380) | about 3 months ago | (#46890151)

In case this is bugging anyone else as much as it is me, here's the close to that dangling parenthesis: )

Ahhh, OCD soothed...

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (2, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (1)

westlake (615356) | about 3 months ago | (#46889297)

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.

The difference lies in commercial sale and distribution.

The Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination was captured quite by chance by a man with an 8mm camera.

On the morning of November 23, CBS lost the bidding for the footage to Life magazine's $150,000 offer.

Zapruder film [wikipedia.org]

That is $1,127,000, adjusted for inflation.

It is the business of the pro to get the "money shot," whatever the event he is covering.

Re:It depends on the hat you're wearing (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 3 months ago | (#46889347)

No, it isn't, and your ignorance is why there are rules to prevent people from doing it.

Fewer morons who know nothing about what they are doing will do it if it cost them $500 and they can't make any money.

Make it so you can make a quick buck on it and it'll bring out a bunch of morons with no clue what the risks are endangering peoples lives.

The difference is staggering, but your short sighted viewpoint is pretty much the core problem. You think you know a lot more than you actually do.

News helicopters (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46888685)

News helicopters have to follow FAA rules.

Re:News helicopters (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#46888911)

Probably because they're standard-size helicopters, not teeny tiny RC models.

Re:News helicopters (4, Insightful)

beelsebob (529313) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:News helicopters (2)

msauve (701917) | about 3 months ago | (#46889037)

Of course, flying a drone isn't Interstate Commerce, either - even if you sell footage to the local news.

Re:News helicopters (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#46889137)

Would flying a drone be interstate commerce even if you sold the video, which has nothing to do with the act of flying, to non-local news?

Re:News helicopters (1)

msauve (701917) | about 3 months ago | (#46889199)

Huh? The act of flying was necessary to gather the video in question. But yes, whether obtained by flying an RC plane or taken by hand, selling it out-of-state would be interstate commerce. Of course, any powers the Feds might have to regulate that would be constrained by the 1st A.

Re:News helicopters (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#46889335)

You make it sound like selling a video captured using a Chinese RC model would be interstate commerce, merely because the model airplane was imported.

Re:News helicopters (2)

msauve (701917) | about 3 months ago | (#46889649)

Read Wickard v Filburn [cornell.edu] , if you really want to see a stretch - the Feds think growing your own food is interstate commerce.

Re:News helicopters (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 months ago | (#46889341)

Exactly. A news crew can not fly a VFR equipped airplane in IFR conditions, the can not fly an aircraft at FL1 at 300 nmph, they not fly an unregistered airplane, they can not pay a pilot to fly for them that does not have a commercial license.
How is the drone rule any different than these rules legally.
   

Permitted Restriction (1)

Etherwalk (681268) | about 3 months ago | (#46889353)

While there is a First Amendment issue here, the government almost certainly wins.

Time, place, and manner restrictions on first amendment activity are usually Constitutional so long as there is some rational basis for them. A reasonable time, place, and manner restriction with a public safety rationale would almost *never* be struck down.

Re:News helicopters (1)

bigpat (158134) | about 3 months ago | (#46889655)

The issue here is the FAA is issuing rules not based on common rules for safely operating a small remote controlled aircraft, but based on whether or not the operator on the ground is getting compensated for his work. The FAA should issue safety regulations not restrict freedom of movement just so it can figure out ways to make more money for the government off of the commercial use of the airspace. The whole thing seems like an inherently corrupt way for the FAA to be operating.

For the most part these micro UAVs are too small to be much of any hazard and it seems that you would have to be either reckless or intend to cause harm to be of any trouble with a micro UAV in which case FAA regulations would be pretty meaningless anyway.

Like I said, this whole UAV regulation thing at least as it applies to very small UAVs seems like more of a shakedown than a proper exercise of government regulations

Re:News helicopters (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 3 months ago | (#46890169)

This was exactly what I was thinking. Does denying some reporter an FAA license to fly a helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft anywhere they please for purposes of journalism constitute a First Amendment violation now?

What happens when they want to fly in restricted airspace? Is that a civil rights issue?

Just think of all the damage (5, Funny)

hsmith (818216) | about 3 months ago | (#46888701)

The drone could have done if it crashed while filming a tornado. The deviation would be catastrophic

Re:Just think of all the damage (3, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#46888931)

Actually: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09... [nytimes.com]

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.

Re:Just think of all the damage (2)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 3 months ago | (#46889127)

You are correct, except I think it'll be a politician. They'll pass a bill that it's perfectly fine for law enforcement drones to spy on us, but that we serfs shalt not use drones to report on our betters.

Re:Just think of all the damage (3, Informative)

StripedCow (776465) | about 3 months ago | (#46889143)

Take this one step further: it's only a matter of time before drones will be used by terrorists...

The future of drones doesn't look bright.

Re:Just think of all the damage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889433)

Is there a difference between "Drone" and RC airplane, etc. When I think of Drone I think of an autonomous craft not being directly controlled by a person.

Storm chasers and drones (4, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | about 3 months ago | (#46888707)

Has any storm chaser captured video when deliberately flying a drone INTO a tornado? Now that would be a sight t see!

Re:Storm chasers and drones (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#46888793)

Just leave an inflated ball with a few cameras inside lying in its path. Much better that way, if nausea is what you're looking for in the video. ;-)

Re:Storm chasers and drones (5, Funny)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about 3 months ago | (#46888819)

Leaving something in the path of a tornado is very very very difficult. There was a documentary about doing that called Twister.

Re:Storm chasers and drones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46888927)

Wow! So you're the other person in the world who appreciates the film!

Re:Storm chasers and drones (1)

Anomalyst (742352) | about 3 months ago | (#46889981)

He's probably the other one who saw idiocracy too

Re:Storm chasers and drones (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#46888969)

Leaving something in the path of a tornado is very very very difficult.

Flying a, what, 20 lb toy directly into a natural phenomena that produces rotating winds of between 75 - 350 Mph [tornado-facts.com] is and even less tenable proposition. You'd be better off with the inflatable ball, as you might get lucky and have it swept up into the twister, presuming it's deployed close enough. Or maybe drop it from an over-flying aircraft.

Re:Storm chasers and drones (1)

beelsebob (529313) | about 3 months ago | (#46889041)

It's likely that the best approach is actually a combination of the two – use a drone to position your camera in the path of the tornado. Then you don't have the usual problem of it being *really* dangerous to try and position the cameras there.

Re:Storm chasers and drones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889691)

Or maybe drop it from an over-flying aircraft.

If we're dropping anything from an over-flying aircraft, it should probably be a small bomb or a metric crap-ton of microwaves (or something that actually works) to disrupt the tornado.

Re:Storm chasers and drones (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 3 months ago | (#46889003)

Right, and its totally safe in the "Eye" of the tornado. As long as you keep pace with it, you'll remain unscathed!

IOW, the newspaper is defending their turf (2)

Huntr (951770) | about 3 months ago | (#46888715)

They don't want to pay him for the footage & don't want others to have the footage.

Champions of Freedom and the 1A, right there.

Turn about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46888723)

When the government starts obeying the many laws that they ignore, then we will. Until then, we do not recognize any such laws.

What? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#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? (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#46888791)

^That about sums it up.

Maybe some folks need to have a plane hit a drone and result in some real death before they get it.

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889111)

Many Americans have a skeptical view of authority, and I think that it is justified.

Just remember that if we allow reporters to do this, it gives the police all the more justification to do it too.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889735)

Many Americans have a skeptical view of authority, and I think that it is justified.

I don't believe that most Americans have a skeptical view of authority.

They have a skeptical view of authority which doesn't match up with their politics, but they're entirely in favor of authority which enforces their own politics and ideas.

In other words, Americans have lost sight of these things, and as long as authority is imposing their will, they're all for it.

Case in point, gay marriage bans. This isn't being skeptical about authority. This is about using authority to force the rest of the world to listen to your beliefs.

Little better than the Taliban, really.

Re:What? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 3 months ago | (#46890205)

I find people seem much more rational if you:

  • Avoid "wedge issues". Even those that I feel strongly about don't really make much difference in the grand scheme of things.
  • Approach politics with people as if you were discussing sports. You wouldn't start out a friendly bar discussion with a Jets fan by saying, "Man, the Jest just SUCK!" and the same is true with political fans.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46888995)

> It means you cannot operate a drone for commercial purposes due to safety regulations.

So what safety aspects change if you're using it for commercial vs non-commercial?

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46888999)

The conflict comes that a private citizen hobbyist apparently has rights and freedoms that the "Press" does not.

If this guy flies his drone as a hobby, and records the video, but never shows it to anyone, or posts it to a free site like YouTube, then he is in the clear.

But the prohibition is on "commercial" uses of drones. So if this same guy flies his drone, and SELLS the video, he suddenly broke the law?

That part does not make any sense, and seems to violate Equal Protection Under the Law principles.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889025)

Corporations are people, my friend.

Re:What? (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 3 months ago | (#46889271)

Different rules apply. Same as civilian aircraft are regulated differently than commercial or CDL drivers license versus non-commercial.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889169)

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

I believe there is ample proof that this view is not limited to only one part of the political spectrum.

(Especially (mo|i)ronic since the conservatives are the first to call for boycotts and shouting down people who disagree with them.)

That's interesting. I've seen many instances in the past 10 years of conservative speakers being shouted down by people in the audience who disagree with the speaker's point of view. There very well may be examples of the opposite, I just have not seen 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.

Agreed.

Re:What? (1)

v1 (525388) | about 3 months ago | (#46889211)

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

I believe the "regulation" aspect right now is simply about the numbers. When you have a handful of amateurs flying quads around their local park or around their back yard or neighborhood, the risks of collision are minimal and the scope of the damage limited. Once it becomes profitable, you can get a sudden, substantial increase in risks to the public.

Right now there are already quite a few people using quadrocopters etc for commercial purposes. Probably the biggest group at this time are the realtors, that hire professional photographers to get pictures of properties for sale. Many of these photographers use quads to get good aereal shots of the house and surrounding property. I think these are being overlooked by the FAA because they don't tend to concentrate and raise the risk of a collision. The photographers are also flying expensive cameras, and don't want to crater their $2,500 camera let alon their $350 quad. Also they're used casually, with no time pressure, so they can concentrate on their flying. Odds are also very good that anyone below hears them and is stopping to watch, and would be much better prepared to take cover should there be a loss of control.

On the other hand, there's a very plausible risk of collisions and damage/injury when you have a papparazzi-ish fervered group of reporters trying to get coverage on a public event. I could see a dozen or more quads zipping around trying to get fleeting unique video, while flying above crowds of people that are NOT paying any attention to any potential danger above. High concentration of aircraft, operators with priorities over safety, concentrated public, and public not paying attention to them. I suspect that is the sort of thing the FAA wants to keep a close eye on, not the "random quad flying solo through the city with a camera onboard." The current regulations simply don't make the necessary distinctin between the different types of commercial use at this point, so they're "selectively enforcing", as is to be expected. If anything, I think the press should have specific additional regulation in certain circumstances, where it's not a case of "protecting the fredom of the press" but is more a case of "protecting the public from reckless reporters".

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889245)

If we were talking about a news helicopter with a real pilot, folks would not be confused.
It's common sense that he has to follow FAA regs and fly safe first and then gather the news.

Being a drone doesn't change this.
For some reason common sense is not working.

Things are additionally confused because the FAA has not done their job to put clear regs in place.
Instead, they appear to be running some sort of unsafe regulatory bluff.

I would have expected a better report from Forbes.

Press is a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889299)

Yes there should be restrictions, and it really doesn't matter anyway since few press outlets bother to report anything of significance, they peddle government propaganda and whatever else can make them money or gain them ratings, it is a corporation and just as corrupt as government/politicians.

Yes this argument gets brought up time and time again with press and media, what should be restricted if anything and what shouldn't be. Because it has somehow influenced society towards committing evil acts.

But they've been pushing things too far, in my city alone their are lawsuits pending against news stations for live 'chopper' broadcasts of car accidents, the reason being the families were watching and knew the vehicle, as well as watching their kin being hauled into an ambulance, blooded, mangled or dead. They showed bloated dead bodies from hurricane Katrina live or made up fake rescues to show they have a moral compass. I am sure it is the same as it was back the early days of the country, showing pictures of Bonnie and Clyde full of bullet holes, or the Valentines massacre, or the Civil war, or any war for that matter.

Re:What? (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 3 months ago | (#46889501)

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.

If you can do it for non-commercial purposes but not for commercial purposes, that shows that it isn't "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?

The federal government has only authority to regulate interstate commerce. Is flying drones into a tornado related to interstate commerce? No. Hence it should not a federal government issue. Furthermore, prohibiting this activity isn't just working out the details of some law (which is what regulators are supposed to do), it's an entirely new restriction that should require an act of Congress.

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.

Regulations are not the same thing as laws. Yes, people should complain when unelected federal bureaucrats decide for no good reason to restrict what Americans can do.

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

Are they proposing laws against those consequences? No. They are merely exercising their right to free speech in response to other people exercising their right to free speech. That's how free speech works.

You seem to have trouble understanding what free speech means, and you seem to have trouble understanding the basics of government. More disconcerting, you seem to be ignorant of history and how government restrictions on press and free speech have always been justified with "public safety". It's good to see that Americans aren't quite as ignorant and complacent as you seem to be.

It isn't a safety regulation! (1)

bigpat (158134) | about 3 months ago | (#46889693)

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

How is it a "safety regulation" if I can do the same exact thing with a small UAV and it is legal as long as I am not getting paid in some way?

Re:What? (1)

MrTester (860336) | about 3 months ago | (#46890071)

Judging from many of the earlier posts it seems that what many Slashdot readers have lost a grasp on is the difference between the FAA and the FCC. Whether its a knowledge deficiency or a failure in Reading-for-Information I dont know.

Too bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46888803)

Government agencies and law enforcement use drones, so we will too. If they start putting weapons on them, then the people will also. If you don't like it, then you shouldn't be doing it to the people.

Commercial Versus Free (2)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 3 months ago | (#46888809)

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.

There is a pretty obvious difference between the right of press freedom and commercial use of drones; the commercial part. If the drone operator is getting paid, or under contract, or in any other compensatory relationship with the publisher, it is commercial use of a drone. If he is a hobbyist who happens to catch some interesting footage and lets the news media use it for free, it is non-commercial use. Commercial operation of drones is prohibited. The press is free to report on the footage, and free to display it if they can do so without violating commercial drone operation regulations.

It strikes me the same as attempts to conflate advertising and commercial lobbying with free speech. Compulsory speech -- speech which you are obligated to make under the terms of a business relationship -- is not free speech. Trade is not protected speech. You have a natural right to express your views, but you do not have a natural right to pay others on the condition that they say what you tell them to say.

Re:Commercial Versus Free (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 3 months ago | (#46888885)

Are there areas where the "press freedom" rule trumps the laws that affect the ordinary public?

Re:Commercial Versus Free (1)

msauve (701917) | about 3 months ago | (#46889097)

So, when a newspaper pays a printer to print their words - that's not protected speech? When CNN pays their anchors for reporting, that's not protected speech?

It is not illegal (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46888823)

A judge invalidated the law not too long ago so there is no legal issue. http://www.theverge.com/2014/3/6/5479582/judge-rules-commercial-drones-are-legal-undoing-six-year-ban

Re:It is not illegal (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 3 months ago | (#46889393)

No, he didn't invalidate the law. That article headline is worse than most slashdot headlines, and when you use the verge are your reference, you're wrong from the start.

The judge ruled that the interpretation was too ambiguous to apply as it was written. That doesn't invalidate it, it just puts them back in court at a later date with a modified argument.

Re:It is not illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889731)

So to paraphrase you the court didn't "invalidate" the regulation it just decide the regulation "was too ambiguous to apply as it was written".... so ya that means the FAA has to go back and rewrite the rules.

Bunk (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | about 3 months ago | (#46888827)

I'm fairly certain there was already a Federal ruling on using drones for commercial purposes and the FAA lost. Maybe somebody can find the source..

Re:Bunk (2)

Stele (9443) | about 3 months ago | (#46889255)

Interesting article over at the FAA concerning drones:
http://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=76240

same old shyster & wmd cabal franchise (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46888835)

(show &) tell us about the plane crash (etc...) with a gleam in it's eye http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=weather+manipulation+media+wmd+cabal history disappears daily now

Expect complaint to FAA in 3, 2, 1... (3, Insightful)

advocate_one (662832) | about 3 months ago | (#46888883)

from private pilots operating small planes and helicopters as drones are stealing their "business" opportunities...

Re:Expect complaint to FAA in 3, 2, 1... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46888997)

Those are, by definition, not "private pilots". If they're getting paid to fly, they already supposed to have a commercial pilot's certificate.

Re:Expect complaint to FAA in 3, 2, 1... (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about 3 months ago | (#46889101)

Do small planes and helicopters often attempt to fly over tornadoes? I would imagine that any type of plane, private or commercial, would actively avoid any type of storm cell that could or is producing tornadoes.

Re:Expect complaint to FAA in 3, 2, 1... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 months ago | (#46889379)

A. Drones outside of those owned by NASA and NOAA do not fly over tornadoes. You are usually talking about above FL40 to fly over storm/tornado.
B. These drones were taking pictures of damage after the storm not during.

Re:Expect complaint to FAA in 3, 2, 1... (1)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about 3 months ago | (#46889123)

First complainant is automatically volunteered for the business opportunity of flying a helicopter into a tornado.

Rights are not absolute.. (3, Insightful)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 3 months ago | (#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.

Re:Rights are not absolute.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46890005)

Figure I'll hook this here....

'Press' as used in the First Amendment does not mean 'reporter'. It means 'printing press'. The freedoms protected were the spoken and written word.

I do wish folks would start to correct that horrid mis-interpretation.

rule of law? (1)

Revek (133289) | about 3 months ago | (#46888993)

or the law of rules. In those halcyon days of old, when a new tech came along, the government rightfully ignored it. When the tech started to cause problems or started to make serious money they would step in and make sure that the interest of the 'people' were regulated. Now we have tons of unregulated business models and fewer unregulated personal freedoms.

Question (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 3 months ago | (#46889011)

Please forgive my ignorance, but the laws governing RC aircraft basically consist of a flight ceiling and line-of-sight requirement, right? I.e., 'keep the thing below X feet and make sure you can see it?'

Presuming that's the case, and knowing that there are crap-tons of fire towers in the region, do you think it would be legal to stand atop one of the (normally 60-100 feet tall in this part of the world) and pilot the craft from there? You'd have a helluva sight range that way.

Re:Question (3, Informative)

BitZtream (692029) | about 3 months ago | (#46889455)

No.

The rules are (short version of legalese)

Fly by line of sight. (They get too small to fly more than a mile away)
Stay below 400 feet AGL ... ABSOLUTE GROUND LEVEL, the distance between the aircraft and the ground below it must be less than 400 feet, not operator level.
No commercial use (this was added in 2007 to prevent a maelstrom of idiots with RC planes doing shit for money, and is the main arguing point right now)
Do not fly within X number of feet of buildings or Y number of feet of people. I forget the specifics of X and Y right now.
Do not fly within 5 miles of an active airport or helipad, where active is defined as shows up on sectional charts as 'open', regardless of the actual usage of the airport or its size.

and a bunch of other more obscure and less likely to apply rules.

Disasters (1)

mbone (558574) | about 3 months ago | (#46889075)

Many rules are ignored / not enforced in disaster areas. This can go both ways - for example, your freedom of movement may be blocked by police enforcing evacuations, but the people looking for survivors generally don't worry much about one way streets or the laws of trespass. (And, yes, this certainly includes commercial activities, such as insurance adjusters.)

My guess is that the FAA will ignore this, as long as it doesn't cause problems or get egregious.

And the issue is? (1)

IgnitusBoyone (840214) | about 3 months ago | (#46889089)

I fail to see the issue.
People have a very strange def of freedom of speech, which was originally intended to allow printed press to be delivered with out consequence or government oversight. The inability to legally fly drones does not prevent you from capturing footage by the commonly use news helicopters or placing your camera on a boom and pushing it over a fence.

This is like saying trespassing laws violate freedom of speech or maybe locks. I mean those pesky locks. What about all those barricades on military bases. Lets faces it nothing in our government provides you unlimited access to any place just because your curious. On the other hand its almost impossible to punish you for reporting on your random thoughts on what is behind those closed doors.

Re:And the issue is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889835)

The issue is that the FAA is acting against the best interests of the American people and has been captured by corrupt government and commercial interests which want to restrain freedom of information. This "no commercial" use rule serves no legitimate safety interest, but does restrict the collection of information by news organizations. It would be like the FCC saying you can't make commercial use of photos transmitted over the Internet.

I'd like to see a debate on press "stalking" (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 3 months ago | (#46889449)

If I follow a woman around and snap pictures of her through her windows, I'm a stalker. If she's in the public eye for *whatever* reason and I tell the cop I'm going to sell the pics to the Enquirer, that makes it OK. No one would have a problem using drones to survey farmland, but what happens when there's a network of drones in the air tracking the movements of every citizen and that database is sold to the the government?

This is something we need to get worked out quickly before the abuses start.

Re:I'd like to see a debate on press "stalking" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46889947)

No one would have a problem using drones to survey farmland

Except the FAA, apparently. Since they have declared commercial use to be illegal. So farmland survey would be illegal under FAA regulations unless it is done by some stranger out of the goodness of their heart and not for any reason that might make you more money like figuring out where to grow your crops or where you might need more fertilizer.

I like the stalker example though.... in that case the FAA would be okay with stalkers using a drone as long as they aren't getting paid.

So if the guy looking for earthquake survivors (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 3 months ago | (#46890009)

became a reporter or was selling his video footage to news outlets, he might be able to resume looking for buried earthquake survivors with his drones.

Fundamental conflict between safety and reporting here.

I think reporting is going to lose but maybe we'll end up with reasonable altitude and geographical limits* on drones instead.

* i.e. under 250' and not within a few miles of active airports or heliports.

Where I live (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#46890127)

Where I live (Canada) its legal (AFAIK) to operate a small drone for commercial purposes so long as 1) it is not operated within 1/2 mile of any airport, 2) it does not go above 500 feet (and even in countries that use metric, aviation altitude worldwide is measured in feet), 3) a few other restrictions w.r.t. schools, hospitals, power lines, range, noise, police stations, military installations, etc. Example: Two guys set up a small business mounting a Cannon SLR camera (I think maybe a Rebel Pro), onto a 6 rotor 'copter. They take it to local farmers and offer aerial views of their farm house for $50. Likewise they are offering (stunning HD) video for hotels and resorts (but more in the $2500-5000 range). They are busy. Apparently the laws in the US are different, and so these two are limited to just little Canada.

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