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DJI Phantom pilot busted for taking photos of VA Medical Center

Discussion in 'News' started by Guaymasjim, May 19, 2015.

  1. Guaymasjim

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    This is really going to get out of hand before it gets resolved! I personally don't have much faith that any of us will be happy with the resolution. Since the media has consistently misused the word "drone" so often, many people equate our Phantoms with Predator drones used by the military around the world.

    http://photographyisnotacrime.com/2...aphy-for-taking-aerial-photos-of-va-hospital/

    There are some interesting legal points in this article that we should all be aware of.

    Semper Fi!
     
  2. Hasan Ahmad

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    Taking pictures of federal buildings solely for the purpose of taking pictures of federal building is frowned upon. this is a fine line
     
  3. tcope

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    This is the the same old same old from these idiots. Take action now and never consider the law. He really needs to fight this and someone, like the newspaper who asked him to get the photos, needs to spend a couple of thousand on an attorney. Don't take any plea and get this into court. Have a judge rule on it so that there is case law on the books. It's not restricted air space and the first amendment allows him to take photos of a government building. This has been shown to be the law time and time again. They also cannot seize his memory card. Personally, I think he should sue over that (claim $50 in damages) and get that on the books in the same case. I'd send this guy $10 via PayPal if he does this.
     
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  4. tcope

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    I'm looking into getting contact information for Mr. Cougar. If he'd agree, I'm wondering if anyone might be interested in sending a few bucks to help him out with this situation. I think we all have an interest in standing up for fellow drone fliers.
     
  5. bbfpv

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    I'd be interested. If you can get his info, set up a http://www.gofundme.com/ to fight this. And the media likes to report on things found on GoFundMe if they're for/against a particularly hot topic.
     
  6. N017RW

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    Ahhh, you really think people equate this toy to a Predator?

    I doubt most would know what one [Predator] is or looks like.

    It's all about privacy... real, expected, or perceived.
     
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  7. Woods

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    I don't get those cops.
    How was that different from Google Earth, or a private plane flying over taking photos.
     
  8. jason

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    First off here in the US video taping or photographing federal buildings for private or commercial use is not against the law as long as it is done from public sidewalk. To do so inside a federal building require authorization.

    Maybe Mr. Cougar should contact the ACLU.
     
  9. tcope

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    So I spoke to Jay on the phone and let me just say, really a nice guy. I've been to Shreveport many times for work and the people in that area are some of the nicest people you will meet. Just a "small town" feel where people are down to earth. Jay works as a DJ mainly so people know him in the area. He says that many people have contacted him and spoken to him about this situation. He was flying his drone at the time at the request of his friend that works at the local newspaper. He says a group of security guards came up to him and asked him about what he was doing. Jay complied and talked to them about everything. He's not some big newspaper reporter or anything like that, he was just getting some footage for a friend.

    He's been charged with 5 counts at $50/each. The newspaper has offered to put him in contact with their attorney. It's not clear if Jay will have any expenses or if he will plead guilty, not guilty or if the charges will be dropped.

    If you've read the review that an attorney made of the case I think it's pretty clear that this is another case of law enforcement not understanding the laws or the US Constitution. It's also a case of them thinking that they can rule against people _just_ because they are flying a drone.

    Jay gave me his permission to post his email address here. I'm asking people to consider donating a few bucks via PayPal to Jay to help him out. Again, it's not known if he will face a fine or any expenses. But the way I look at it, he's going through a hardship as a result of flying his drone legally. I think done fliers need to support other drone fliers. Also, $5 or $10 would not be a lot to some of us but added up I think it would help Jay out.

    I'm _hoping_ that he fights this issue. I'm betting that prosecutor looks at this and just dismissed the charges so that they don't get ruled against. If that happens it's great for Jay but I'd _LOVE_ to see a court case get ruled on by a judge.

    Email: jaycougar@hotmail.com
     
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  10. tcope

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    Keep in mind that he was always outside of the building. He did walk into their property to get some camera photos but then returned to the sidewalk to land the drone. He only went inside after all that was done and at the request of security.

    (they also illegally took his memory card)
     
  11. tcope

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    First, it's not a fine line. Second, taking photos of a Federal building for news it not even close to being illegal.

    If taking photos of a Federal building were illegal then they would be arresting thousands of people on PA Ave in DC every day.
     
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  12. jason

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    If you can read I recited the federal law as posted by the government regarding the taking of photos/videos of all federal buildings from public sidewalks. As a videographer I am well aware of what those laws are.

    This was in response to Hasan Ahmad remarks "Taking pictures of federal buildings solely for the purpose of taking pictures of federal building is frowned upon. this is a fine line".

    As far as Mr. Cougar breaking any laws he broke two. While it is true his takeoff and landed from a public sidewalk but he did enter VA's property when walked into the parking lot to take those photos and the other for photographing the building without FAA authorization.
     
  13. tcope

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    From the attorney that reviewed the matter:
    "Given that Mr. Cougar asserts he was taking exterior photos of the hospital for a newspaper that section of the regulation pertaining to news photography does not require permission and therefore the government may not be able to prove he violated the elements under that section. Additionally, if he was indeed not on VA property at the time of his arrest but rather on a public street or sidewalk this regulation would be inapplicable."

    The cited him for the 8 photos _taken with the drone_. As stated, he launch and landed the drone from a public sidewalk, not from the VA property.

    The law includes the following about photos:
    (10) Photographs for news, advertising, or commercial purposes. Photographs for advertising or commercial purposes may be taken only with the written consent of the head of the facility or designee. Photographs for news purposes may be taken at entrances, lobbies, foyers, or in other places designated by the head of the facility or designee.

    This means that photos taken from these areas can be taken for news purposes. These are all areas _inside_ of the building. That is, the only restrictions are when photos are taken from the inside and also, these are allowed from the areas mentioned. The photos in question were all taken from the _outside_ of the building.

    You then mention it's illegal to photograph the building with authorization from the FAA???? I'm not sure why you mention this as 1) it's not something he was charged with (they determined that he did not violate air space) and 2) he does not need FAA authorization to take photos of the building. If you are referring to photos taken for commercial use, _only_ the FAA can enforce this and they have not charged Cougar and 2) at the time of the arrest he had not used the photos for commercial use. He never made a penny off the photos at the time. If I purchase a can of spray paint and am thinking about vandalizing someone's property I can't be arrested for vandalizing property... until I actually do it. This is not Minority Report.
     
  14. jason

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    I for one could really care less. But you my misguide friend cannot justify what he did.
     
  15. bbfpv

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    Gonna be a tough battle when quad pilots are rarely on the same page...
     
  16. tcope

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    I'm not justifying it... thought I fail to see why anyone would need to. I am only pointing out that that he's not guilty by law (I pointed out why and also an attorney disagrees with the charges) and that we _all_ have a vested interest in these tactics.

    There was another post about Suffolk County NY making a laws against taking photos with drones (not just taking photos... specifically against using a drone) around county buildings. Clearly this is an illegal law as taking photos is a right under the 1st Amendment. I'm betting the people making the law don't even care that it's illegal. What I think they want to do is use it to bully people. They will _threaten_ to charge people under this law which will get 99.9999% of the people to stop (i.e. give up their right under the US Constitution). They won't ever actually charge anyone so that the law can't be challenged (it then requires someone to file suit against the County which costs a _LOT_ of money. So we slowly give up our rights when we ignore these issues. Yes, flying drones is not a end all... but to me it's more about giving up rights... and it just happens to do with something I enjoy.
     
    #16 tcope, May 19, 2015
    Last edited: May 19, 2015
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  17. GoodnNuff

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    I feel bad for Mr. Cougar and wish him the best in fighting this,
    On the other hand I can't help but wonder why he didn't take a few minutes to alert security that he would be taking some aerial photos for the local newspaper before actually taking the photos.
    A patient's privacy rights (Federal HIPAA laws) are almost a prime directive in healthcare and in our litigious culture, a hospital will do all it can do protect those rights and prevent a patient from suing. I am not surprised security stopped him and took his memory card. Once they review it and see there were no visible or identifiable patients filmed through the hospital windows, they need to drop the charges and return his property.
    But I hope the lesson was learned - if you are going to film a federal building or a hospital with a drone - get permission first.
     
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  18. Marlin009

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    Seems reasonable to me.
     
  19. tcope

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    I can't speak for him but I get the impression that he simply did not see any issue with this. He knows the person at the newspaper who wanted the photos. They used Cougar's drone to just get a few photos (he took 8 shots). He then took a few photos with his camera. Keep in mind that this is a "small town" where everyone (at least that I've met there) practices good southern hospitality.

    He did show them the 8 photos that he took, to show that that they were just of the outside of the building but this is the _reason_ they charge him with taking the photos. They knew full well what the photos showed.

    Legally he had no obligation to do anything unless they were detaining him with suspicion of a crime. He certainly had no obligation to show them the data on the memory card or give it to them but he did anyway. He cooperated completely with them. He told me that it was a little intimidating, having 5 armed guards asking questions.

    While it's nice to ask for permission, it's legally not required. If you then don't want to take photos, that is understandable. The issue I have is that we should let people to take away Constitutional rights. In this case they violated several of Cougar's guaranteed Constitutional rights. Once we allow this to happen it becomes much easier to continue to do.

    I'm _not_ saying we should all be jerks about it. There is a difference between standing up for your rights and being a jerk. In this case there is nothing to show that Mr. Cougar was not very considerate and assisted law enforcement. What it got him was an illegal charge and an illegal confiscation of his property. What it got all drone fliers was another chip away from our rights to obtain photos with our drones. Right now it's "illegal" not to fly in many places. Entire cities and counties are simple banning drones. Soon we may not be able to "legally" fly at all.
     
    #19 tcope, May 19, 2015
    Last edited: May 20, 2015
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  20. Meta4

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    Is this story from East Germany in the mid-60s?
    Or perhaps North Korea?
    To outsiders it can seem like the "Land of the Free" is a police state.
    And the really weird thing is that so many people accept it.
     
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