Thursday, June 13, 2013

Demarest v. Athol/Orange and the Rights of Citizen Journalists

If you are a Citizen Journalist,
suggest you get to know a federal case called
Demarest and Dunn v. Athol/Orange TV.
(the full cite is below).

This case fundamentally asserts the rights of citizen journalists.

Don't look for the final Decision and Order.
The "Memorandum Regarding Plantiffs'
Motion for a Preliminary Injunction"

is what you are looking for.

However it is not so clearly stated.
The word "Journalist" only occurs in a (convoluted) footnote,
and "press" in a citation about limitations....

One has to become familiar with the facts of this case
to understand this conclusion:


The operator of the access channel AOTV compelled producers to
sign an agreement consenting to rules which required obtaining
signed release forms from everyone who appears on camera.

The producers (plaintiffs) Patricia Demarest and Vicky Dunn
did a public affairs show about gov't officials. They challenged
this rule and were suspended. They sued to get their access back.

The court found:
``At base, plaintiffs had a constitutionally protected right
to record matters of public interest
, see Smith v. City of
Cumming, 212 F.3d 1332, 1333 (11th Cir. 2000), cert. denied 531
U.S. 978 (2000); .... as applied to these plaintiffs, the Release Form
provision made no distinction between the newsworthy and the
mundane, or between matters of public interest and purely private

Rather than being tailored to protect legitimate interests
in privacy, the Release Form Provision made Athol's news makers
news editors. By refusing to sign a release form, Athol's news
makers could ensure that their images did not appear on AOTV. It
is highly probable that the filming which gave rise to Demarest's
suspension will be found to be constitutionally protected.``
Citizen Journalists: there it is if it comes up for you.

Access Channel Managers, you should read this decision well
to understand the kinds of things which are inappropriate in
a producer's contract.  (e.g., Release form requirements, or
any Content-based restrictions)

This case is very important for anyone who wants to assert
your right as a citizen journalist, because this happens all the time.

99% of the time, whether I get access to an event,
it has nothing to do with a published court decision.

It has much more to do with looking professional,
having a good looking press-pass (which you perhaps made yourself),
and being about to cite the law like you know what you are talking about.

It is 40% the law behind you, and 60% your attitude.

So get yourself a copy of GIMP (free software, Photoshop clone),
grab this press-pass template, modify it for your show,
and you photo/vitals, and voila! YOU are a journalist now!

All you need is a little moxie.

Maybe think about adding this at the end of the First Amendment
on the back:

"At base, [citizens have] a constitutionally protected right
to record matters of public interest.
-- Demarest v. Athol/Orange
Community Television, 188 F. Supp. 2d 82 (D. Mass. 2002)

If you can't get in the door with this,
then give me a ring:607-321-7846  :)

BH in Binghamton

May you, and all beings
be happy and free from suffering :)
-- ancient Buddhist Prayer (Metta)

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