Texas HB912 bans Unmanned AC from taking photos w/o permission

Discussion in 'Announcements' started by Gary Haynes, May 10, 2013.

  1. Gary Haynes

    Gary Haynes Administrator
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    Heads up for those of you living in Texas. The Texas House has passed HB 912, sending it over to the Senate. Effectively it makes it a Misdemeanor to capture any type of image of persons or property without permission.

    You can read the proposed law at http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=83R&Bill=HB912. Read the 'engrossed' version which has all of the latest changes.

    If you live in Texas you may want to contact both your state Senator and House representative. Make your voices heard.

    It has lots of exceptions for all sorts of special interests. Yet nothing is exempted for hobby fliers (multirotor or aircraft) nor things like the movie industry.
     
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  2. Gary Haynes

    Gary Haynes Administrator
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    The Texas bill which may have a chilling effect on any multirotor usage is only a couple of steps away from becoming law. Here's the current status as a timeline.
    [​IMG]
    So it is one short vote to the governor for final approval.

    No one from our industry or even the AMA have been witnesses against this legislation.

    This is the description of the violation:
    (a) A person commits an offense if the person uses an unmanned vehicle or unmanned aircraft to capture an image of:
    (1) an individual or privately owned real property in this state with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property captured in the image; or
    (2) real property in this state, on which a primary or secondary school or a licensed child-care facility is operated or an individual located on that property, with the intent to conduct surveillance.



    Penalties include it being a Class C Misdemeanor as well as giving specific civil remedies of the photographed party. Civil results can be unlimited and specifically call out $ 5,000 for a single image and $ 10,000 for distribution of an image.

    There is very little time to act. Please contact your State Senator today.
     
  3. Gary Haynes

    Gary Haynes Administrator
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    Texas HB912 passed in the Senate with amendments last week. Today the Texas House rejected the amendments and indicated that they want to go to conference and has appointed their conference committee members.

    It is not to late for you to contact your state Senators and House members and let them know your thoughts on this piece of legislation.

    In the House during public testimony 12 people testified AGAINST the bill, 2 testified FOR the bill and 3 testified with no opinion.

    In the Senate during public testimony there was no direct testimony from anyone FOR the bill. 6 testified as AGAINST and 3 gave testimony with no opinion.

    Please reach out to your legislator to stop this badly written piece of legistlation.
     
  4. Brad Meier

    Brad Meier Active Member
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    I read this as being as long as your intent is not to conduct surveillance on a person or property.. or schools then you are fine. Seems like they are trying to protect privacy vs stop all unmanned aircraft flying. Maybe there is more to it though..
     
  5. Gary Haynes

    Gary Haynes Administrator
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    Brad the reason I think this is all a bad idea is that the burden will really fall on the operator to prove what their intent is. Kind of the opposite of innocent until proven guilty. And should you get ticketed since the police aren't there to sort out the mess then it gets really expensive very quickly for the operator. The vast majority of folks that testified were against the bill. But doesn't seem like anyone is listening.

    To make it worse there are also sorts of special interests that got their exemptions entered. One of the apparent triggers for this bill was the filming a year or so ago by a guy just out for fun who recorded a large chemical spill along a creek that he was flying over. Showed it to the authorities and all heck broke loose.

    Just a simple mess just in the words of 'conduct surveillance'. They can do a better job of writing something that is cleaner.
     
  6. Gary Haynes

    Gary Haynes Administrator
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    On June 14, 2013 Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed into law Texas HB 912 which restricts the use of UAV’s in Texas.
    While some commentators have said that the bill will be tough to enforce proving the difference between general capturing of images versus the language in the bill of ‘surveillance’ the cost to defend an action will be expensive for the first few folks that run afoul of the law. In addition to criminal penalties there are also civil penalties and the civil side can be initiated by any person who thinks that the operator has broken this Texas law.

    The law takes affect on September 1, 2013.
     
  7. Cris Olariu

    Cris Olariu Member

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    So basically if the operator provides proof (like a contract) that he was hired to take photos of a piece of property for example, that should all be good right? Maybe I'm reading this wrong...
     
  8. Gary Haynes

    Gary Haynes Administrator
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    Cris that would be correct. However think of a typical real estate shoot. Does it only show that piece of property or perhaps parts of the surrounding properties? Or you want to shoot a great landscape, who do you contact for all of the property between you and the mountain range? Bit extreme on that one but it only takes one cranky person to start the ball rolling. It's just a bad piece of legislation.
     
  9. Cris Olariu

    Cris Olariu Member

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    I totally agree it is an inconvenience, and it's a step back. I just thought I was misunderstanding something.
    As far as landscapes go... that really goes for anybody tho. I mean, are they gonna fine all the tourists that take pictures? That would be ridiculous, even for Texas...
     
  10. Gary Haynes

    Gary Haynes Administrator
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    It is just to bizarre. Section 15

    (15) from a height no more than eight feet above ground level in a public place, if the image was captured without using any electronic, mechanical, or other means to amplify the image beyond normal human perception;

    Since the entire law is about unmanned aircraft if I am 10' up and I use the zoom lens on my Sony am I busted. But at 7'11" and I don't use the zoom aim am ok. Can't wait for the first court cases. Hard to believe that any of this makes sense.
     
  11. Cris Olariu

    Cris Olariu Member

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    Well, I notice a couple things in section 15:
    - they mention "public place". So if you're on private property you should be fine... maybe.
    - as long as you fly at 7'11" with one of those single use $12.99 cameras, I think it's legal. Haha
     
  12. Gary Haynes

    Gary Haynes Administrator
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    The numbered sections were exceptions (positive defense) to the law. It is so poorly written with so many special interest exceptions nothing is a simple as most other states have written theirs. Shoot, even California where you are located Cris simply says you can't invade the privacy of another person if their is a privacy expectation using an unmanned aircraft. Basically an extension of CA's paparazzi laws. The only thing in Texas that is missing is an exception for Alamo day....
     
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  13. Zach Beggs

    Zach Beggs Member

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    If you show a contract that you're hired classifies the flights as commercial and hence against federal law (FAA). *sigh*

    What bothers me is that if I fly for my own reasons, it's legal. However is Andy were to offer me a donut for my footage that day, it would be commercial (a mutual exchange between 2 parties) and therefore against federal law.
     
  14. Gary Haynes

    Gary Haynes Administrator
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    And that train of thought opens the next set of questions. Probably every exception listed in the law would be ruled an illegal flight by the folks that got the exemption on the books. And general rule of law is that the Feds trump most state laws especially when it comes to airspace.
     
  15. Andy Johnson-Laird

    Andy Johnson-Laird Administrator
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    Also it is worth noting that the language from the FAA says "hobby or recreational use" -- it does not speak to commercial/non-commercial use....the test is whether you're flying for recreation or as part of a hobby.

    Andy.
     
  16. William Johnston

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    It seems at first kind of strange that the exact same activity that is OK for recreation is suddenly against the regulations if someone gives you a dollar. However, I think the reason is that they can't regulate someone playing in their back yard. The authority for the FAA to regulate comes from commerce clause in the Constitution. The commerce clause has been stretched to breaking point, but I think that even the FAA lawyers haven't figured out how to stretch it to cover a person playing in their backyard. And I think that's why the language of AC 91-57 is "encourages voluntary compliance" rather than "do it or we will fine you $10,000." However, if you take a dollar then that changes the activity from recreation to commerce and they can come down on you like a ton of bricks.

    Of course, more recently in Washington D.C. there has been a "Screw the Constitution" movement. The FAA is now saying that hobbyists "must" comply with AC 91-57. Still, if they want to take your money or throw you in jail they have to do it through the courts and some judges still read the Constitution. (Unless the government declares you a terrorist and then the President can throw you in jail forever without a trial.)
     
  17. Gary Haynes

    Gary Haynes Administrator
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    The wording in AC 91-57 was advisory. But the FAA can now 'enforce' parts of it since some of the components of AC 91-57 were incorporated into the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act which after being passed is a 'law' and made enforceable by the FAA. See section 334 of the Act.

    An example - The AC gives guidance on flying near an airport. The law give specific instructions and distances.

    Makes a good read especially the part about operation in accordance to a community based set of standards (e.g. AMA).
     
  18. William Johnston

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    That's true, but even before they change the law the attitude of the FAA had changed. For instants, AC 91-57 pretty much says, "please comply with these safety rules." In no place in that document do you get the idea that they are granting hobbyist the right to fly. Hobbyists had been flying for decades before that document. In 1981 the FAA clearly just wants to insure that the RC planes stay away from the real planes. OK. But now look at this document from 2007: http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/reg/media/frnotice_uas.pdf

    In this document they say:
    The current FAA policy for UAS operations is that no person may operate a UAS in
    the National Airspace System without specific authority. For UAS operating as public
    aircraft the authority is the COA, for UAS operating as civil aircraft the authority is special
    airworthiness certificates, and for model aircraft the authority is AC 91-57.

    Wow! Apparently, now they think that hobbyist can only fly if the FAA grants them the authority. Well that's an about face. Hobbyist never needed authority before and clearly no authority is really granted in AC 91-57. The purpose of AC 91-57 was to outline and encourage compliance with safety standards. But now apparently it's the mechanism by which they allow hobbyist to fly. They are so generous. Bah!!!
     
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  19. Gary Haynes

    Gary Haynes Administrator
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    William the FR Notice was from 2007 and the FAA RA Act in 2012 then supersedes anything prior with possibly new regulations.
     
  20. William Johnston

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    Well of course. I was just using it as an example of how the FAA is moving from an organization that recognizes the freedoms the citizens to one that is authoritarian and disregards the freedoms of the citizens. But, yes, the new restrictions supersede the old freedoms. I'm sure we can expect even more restrictions in the future.
     
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