Foes say animal bill chills free speech
April 17, 2013
California’s agriculture and cattle industries are backing a proposed state law requiring that persons taking photographs, videotapes, and other documentation depicting animal cruelty turn those materials over to authorities within 48 hours.
The bill, AB343, was introduced by Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, and gets its first hearing today in the Assembly Agriculture Committee. It is sponsored by the California Cattlemen’s Association.
Patterson’s plan is opposed by a variety of environmental groups and the California Newspaper Publishers Association.
Ostensibly, the bill is intended by its supporters to ensure corrective and prompt actions are taken to stop the alleged cruelty.
Opponents contend the bill is an attempt to chill free speech and discourage whistleblowers and activists, and amounts to the taking of property without due process.
News gathering organizations, according to a legislative analysis of the proposal, contend that “holding a photographer or videographer criminally liable if he or she captures or records images of animal cruelty, but fails to provide them to local law enforcement, would violate both federal copyright law and the First Amendment. Under copyright law, once an image or recording is lawfully captured, the person who takes the picture or shoots the video has an instantaneous intellectual property interest in the work that is protected.”