On Tuesday, 13 news media companies filed an Amici Curiae brief with the National Transportation Safety Board in support of Raphael Pirker. Pirker was slapped with a $10,000 fine by the FAA at the beginning of the year for shooting a commercial with a drone. But, he took the case to court and in March, judge Patrick Geraghty sided with Pirker stating the FAA “has not issued an enforceable Federal Acquisition Regulation regulatory rule governing model aircraft operation.” The FAA has appealed this decision.
The Amici Curiae filed on May 6 claims that “the Federal Aviation Administration, through ad hoc administrative
actions rather than through properly enacted and promulgated federal regulation, has applied an overly broad policy prohibiting the unlicensed use of unmanned aerial systems for “business purposes.”
This prohibition, along with the refusal of the FAA to grant a Certificate of Authorization to a news media outlet, is an infringement on news media’s and private citizen’s First Amendment right to free speech.
The briefing goes on to say that, as a branch of the federal government, the FAA “has deprived its citizens and a free and independent news media of the opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process required under U.S. law when the government seeks to regulate, restrict, or curtail otherwise proper lawful activity.” The Amici want to work with the FAA to develop “carefully tailored safety restraints and maximum First Amendment freedom to lawfully gather news.”
Furthermore, “the FAA’s authority is limited to ensuring safety and efficiency in the aviation system,” and has no say when it comes to issues of privacy or security. Rulings in these matters are/should be left up to the states.
The third and final argument in the document, which flows into the Amici’s support of Mr. Pirker’s case, is that “ad hoc cease-and-desist process by the FAA is an inappropriate substitute for notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures.” Until such rules are instated, the FAA has no right to levy and enforce any punishment on commercial UAS pilots.
In response to the filing, Brendan Schulman, Mr. Pirker’s lawyer and head of the civilian drone practice group at Kramer Levin, told DRONELIFE, “I feel this supportive brief filed by the country’s largest news organizations demonstrates that the government should consult with the public before banning or imposing unreasonable restraints on the use of new technologies.”
The organizations that filed the brief include The Associated PRess, Cox Media Group, Gannett Co. Inc, Gray Television Inc, Hearst Corporation, The McClatchy Company, The National Press Photographers Association, THe National Press Club, The New York Times Company, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, The Radio-Television Digital News Association, Scripps Media Inc., Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., the Tribune Company and WP Company LLC.
You can read the brief in its entirety here:
Image courtesy of Mashable