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Business videotaping ban clears Indiana House panel

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Taking videos and photos at farms and factories without permission would become illegal under a proposal endorsed Thursday by an Indiana House committee despite objections from critics who say it would punish whistleblowers and criminalize the exposure of the truth.

The proposal would make it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail to take a photograph or video of a farm or industrial operation without the written consent of the property's owner unless the material is turned over to law enforcement or a regulatory agency within 48 hours.

Bill sponsor Rep. Bill Friend, R-Macy said the measure is aimed at stopping overzealous activists from defaming farms and businesses with misleading videos.

The House agriculture committee voted 9-3 Thursday to advance the bill to the full House. The Senate approved a version of the bill last month.

Rep. Sheila Klinker, D-Lafayette, said she opposes the bill because of concerns that it would prevent exposure of puppy mills or neglected horses, The Indianapolis Star reported.

While the prohibition on videotaping at farms has received much of the attention from opponents, Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott said the bill would "absolutely" have a chilling effect on employees trying to expose dangerous conditions

Steve Key, executive director of the Hoosier State Press Association, said the bill has First Amendment issues, with what he called an unconstitutional prior restraint on people gathering news and information.

Key said those concerns weren't lessened by the provisions of no crime being committed if the information is given to authorities.

"Sometimes the problem is with the agencies that are supposed to be regulating," he said.

Other states, including Iowa and Utah, already have laws banning photography and videotaping on farmland.

"There is no constitutional right to gather news on private property," Bob Kraft, a lobbyist for Indiana Farm Bureau, told the committee last week.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said Thursday he wasn't sure the bill was acceptable yet and that a constitutional lawyer was reviewing it for any First Amendment conflicts.

"We're analyzing it, but I haven't looked at the result of the committee yet, personally," Bosma said. "But we will, and we'll see if the bill needs further work."

The proposal has drawn some national attention, with longtime Republican strategist Mary Matalin recording a video for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals saying that it would wrongly punish whistleblowers reporting animal cruelty. Bassist Tony Kanal of the band No Doubt and former "The Price is Right" host Bob Barker have written letters to Bosma opposing the bill.

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  • No Pictures Please
    As a private business owner I would not want someone to be able to take pictures or video of my operations without asking first. While I am not breaking the law, I understand that some people do. However, you should not be able to "spy" on everyone's business in order to track down a few criminals. There are other ways for whistleblowers to report illegal activity. Subpoenas can and should be obtained when there is ample evidence of wrongdoing. Also, if I have a proprietary process or product I would not want pictures or video to get in the hands of my competition. This bill should become law.
  • tim, you're wrong
    Tim...you really trust our government to be the sole authority and oversight entity within any business or industry? Just because you don't like PETA doesn't mean you should turn into a conspiracy theorist. There are thousands of books of whistleblowers within a company who exposed egregious things going on but I guess you'd rather turn a blind eye to those, huh?
  • Jury of Peers
    Well, if they do come after you I hope I get selected for your jury because I would never vote to punish you for taking photos of buildings, or farms. I am guessing that a good reporter will find "Monsanto Tracks" if they hunt a little longer.
  • Question
    I take photos of historic buildings (from the sidewalk) and post them on the web. If one of those buildings contains a business, will taking a photo of it make me a criminal?
    • Fletchmon
      What just because they want to sneak onto your property and make a film, edit it how they please, and try to demonize your business - that's ok with you?? It is reasonable to have a government agency do certifications to maintain standards, but this is not the role of extremist groups such as PETA
      • Hiding Something?
        So if these people are operating legally and have nothing to hide, why do we need this law. Seems like we need a law ALLOWING people to monitor these operations.

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