Access to Places

"Newsgathering in Massachusetts" Guide Now Available Online!

Guide to Reporting at the 2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions

This page hosts the our Guide to Reporting at the 2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions, and related resources

More than ten thousand journalists are expected to attend the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in Tampa and Charlotte in the late summer of 2012. A complicated array of laws will be enforced at these events by federal officers, state and local law enforcement, and private security. This Guide is intended to provide detailed information about how the law will apply to those trying to gather news at the events surrounding the conventions.

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ANNOUNCEMENT: Live Web Chats on Reporting at the RNC & DNC

This Thursday, August 16, and again next Thursday, August 23, the Digital Media Law Project's own Andy Sellars will be joining Free Press and the International News Safety Institute to host live online sessions on reporting in conflict ar

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Milwaukee Police Dept. v. Kristyna Wentz-Graff

Date: 

11/02/2011

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Kristyna Wentz-Graff

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel photographer Kristyna Wentz-Graff was arrested by Milwaukee police while Wentz-Graff was photographing a protest by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students at the school's campus on Nov. 2, 2011. Wentz-Graff, a three-time Wisconsin "Photographer of the Year," was later released without charge.  She said she was never told why she was arrested.

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn later defended the arrest, reports the Journal Sentinel.  Flynn said that the officers arrested Wentz-Graff because they thought she was a protester, and that Wentz-Graff's status as a journalist was "not obvious to the officers."  The Journal Sentinel ran a photo of Wentz-Graff's arrest that showed her press badge clearly visible.  The paper also quoted Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who had seen video of Wentz-Graff's arrest, saying that "It appeared very clear to me that she was a photojournalist," and that he "very much support[s] her First Amendment right to be there."

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Milwaukee Police Dept. v. Clint Fillinger

Threat Type: 

Criminal Charge

Date: 

09/21/2011

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Clint Fillinger

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Publication Medium: 

Broadcast

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

On September 21, 2011, Clint Fillinger, a photojournalist, was arrested for resisting and obstructing an officer after police confronted Fillinger while he was attempting to film at the scene of a house firm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Fillinger, a 68-year-old journalist with 45 years of experience, was filming from outside the area that officers had cordoned off with police tape, where several members of the public had also gathered.

Fillinger's raw video of the incident was published by his employer, Fox6 Now. The raw video shows two officers approaching Fillinger and demanding that he step back.  The video appears to show Fillinger complying as he stated that he had a right to be there as a member of the public.  The officers tell him that he must move for his own safety.  Fillinger ultimately falls to the ground, dropping his camera, though the video does not show the cause. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reports that Fillinger was the only person asked to move away from the scene.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn told Fox6 the next day that he felt Fillinger was to blame, saying, "If the cameraman had simply complied with the instructions to back off from a working fire, none of this hullabaloo would be taking place."  Fox6 posted the raw video of Flynn's statement on its website.

Several news associations – including the National Press Photographers Association’s Advocacy Committee, the Radio Television Digital News Association, and the Wisconsin News Photographers Association – have sent letters to Flynn demanding the charges be dropped and the officers involved be investigated and face disciplinary charges if necessary.

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Bay Area Rapid Transit v. Protesters

Threat Type: 

Police Activity

Date: 

08/11/2011

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

No Justice No Bart, Anonymous, other protesters

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Organization

Publication Medium: 

Email
Forum
Social Network
Verbal

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

According to SF Weekly, on July 3, 2011, a homeless man named Charles Hill was shot to death by police officers for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District ("BART"). Two and a half years earlier, BART police used lethal force against 22-year old Oscar Grant. Both cases have lead activist groups to stage protests against BART and its police force.

On July 11, 2011, protesters with No Justice, No BART  and other organizations staged a protest in the Civic Center Station, where Hill was shot. According to SF Gate, approximately 100 protesters attended and some blocked the doors of trains, leading BART to temporarily close the station.

According to a BART press release, BART and San Francisco police officers learned of a further protest planned for August 11, 2011 early in the week of August 8th. They believed that protesters were planning to coordinate protests at the station using cell phones, and in an attempt to disrupt that coordination shut down cellular service to specific stations in the BART system. According to Scientific American, BART did this by disabling power to the cell phone and wireless network base stations it owned in the underground system. According to CBS San Francisco, the August 11th protest never materialized.

According to Mashable, web activist group Anonymous responded to BART's closure of cellular service by shutting down the consumer-relations website mybart.org on August 14, 2011, leading to the website's indefinite suspension. Anonymous also organized further protests on August 15, 2011, leading to additional station closures, though no reported cell phone service disruption.

The Bay Citizen reports that the FCC is investigating BART's decision to disable cell phone service in the stations. On August 29, 2011, a group of public interest organizations led by Public Knowledge filed a petition for declaratory ruling to the FCC, arguing that BART's actions violated the Communications Act of 1934.

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Proposed Reform of Massachusetts Open Meetings Law Disappoints

This weekend, the Boston Globe published a thoughtful op-ed by Robert Ambrogi on efforts to reform the Massachusetts open meetings law. Ambrogi points out that the current open meetings law does not provide for civil or criminal penalties against government officials who violate the law.

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Highlights from the Legal Guide: Gathering Private Information

This is the fifth in a series of posts calling attention to some of the topics covered in the Citizen Media Legal Guide we began publishing in January. This past month we rolled out the sections on Newsgathering and Privacy, which address the legal and practical issues you may encounter as you gather documents, take photographs or video, and collect other information.

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New Major League Baseball Restrictions on Press Credentials Hamstring Online Coverage

As an avid baseball fan, I should have been paying closer attention to the recent dispute over Major League Baseball's new restrictions on credentialing journalists who cover MLB games. A nice summary of the dispute on the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press' Sidebar Blog awoke me from my slumber.

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Access to Public Property

The U.S. Constitution protects your right to speak and, in some instances, grants you a right to access public places to gather information. Your right to access public property is not absolute, however. Generally speaking, you have the same right of access to public property as the general public.

Trespass

If you enter private property without the owner's permission or enter portions of public property that are off limits to the public, you could be liable for civil or criminal trespass. For example, you may not walk into your neighbor's house uninvited, sneak into your congressperson's office, or pretend to be a public official to gain access to someone else's property.

Access to Private Property

You may wish to access another's private property in order to gatherinformation to publish online. However, while there are (rare)circumstances in which the law will condone your entry onto privateproperty without permission, in general you do not have any right to enter the private property of others without their consent. You should read this section in conjunction with the section on Trespass in order to understand the issue of consent.

Democrats Accepting Applications from Bloggers to Cover 2008 Convention

CyberJournalist.net is reporting that the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) is  accepting applications from bloggers interested in being part of the credentialed blogger pool at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado:

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NCAA v. Bennett

Threat Type: 

Denial of Access

Date: 

06/10/2007

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

NCAA; University of Louisville

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Brian Bennett; Louisville Courier-Journal

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Media Company

Legal Counsel: 

Jon Fleischaker

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Description: 

Brian Bennett, a blogger and reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper, had his media credentials revoked for blogging during a live NCAA baseball final game. The NCAA said that Bennett was in violation of its policy banning live internet updates during champtionship games.

A few days after the controversy, the NCAA said that it had given "incorrect information" to Bennett. The NCAA clarified its proper position, saying that live updates from NCAA events are permitted as long as the updates only include scores and time remaining.

The Courier-Journal reported that originally considered suing the NCAA for infringing upon Bennett's First Amendment rights, but it appears that the newspaper will not take any legal action.

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CMLP Notes: 

Status checked on 6/5/2008, no new information.  The NCAA has updated its rules on blogging since the incident, however.  (AAB)

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N.Y. City Backs Down on New Photography and Filming Rules

In June we reported that the New York Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting was considering new rules that would require any group of 2 or more people who want to use a camera on city property -- including sidewalks -- for more than a half hour to get a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance.

Not surprisingly, the new rules were roundly criticized from the start. The New York Civil Liberties Union, which said the rules encroached on First Amendment rights, threatened to file a lawsuit to invalidate them. One of the more interesting approaches was taken by Olde English, a comedy group based in New York City that created a rap video lampooning the new rules and directing viewers to contact the Office of Film to express their dissent. (Don't miss the video, it's great.)

The city has now backed down, following a strong public outcry by photographers and independent filmmakers. NY1 News reports:

The Mayor's Office of Film, Television, Theater and Broadcasting said Friday that it will re-evaluate its set of proposed rules that would have required permits and as much as a million dollars in insurance for small, independent productions. The announcement comes at the end of a 60-day public comment period on the policies. The organization Picture New York gathered a petition with 31,000 signatures opposing the rules.

According to NY1 News, the Office of Film says it will take the public's comments into account in the next draft of the rules.

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Exclusive Rights: The Wrong Goal for NFL

The NFL just doesn't know when to stop. The Washington Post reports on a new NFL policy limiting journalists' use of video online:

In a move designed to protect the Internet operations of its 32 teams, the pro football league has told news organizations that it will no longer permit them to carry unlimited online video clips of players, coaches or other officials, including video that the news organizations gather themselves on a team's premises. News organizations can post no more than 45 seconds per day of video shot at a team's facilities, including news conferences, interviews and practice-field reports.

Now this policy isn't copyright-based -- the NFL doesn't have copyright in the un-fixed statements of its players and coaches -- but good old real property law. The NFL teams own their facilities, and with them have the right to exclude people physically, as trespassers. So the NFL is telling sportswriters, who depend on physical access to gather the background for their stories, they'll be barred at the gates if they use more than 45 seconds of video online.

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New York City May Require Permits and Insurance for Public Photography

The New York Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting is considering new rules that would require any group of 2 or more people who want to use a camera on city property -- including sidewalks -- for more than a half hour to get a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance, the New York Times reports today:

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