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Senate OKs bill to stop undercover video at farms, plants

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The Indiana Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would make it illegal to take unauthorized pictures or video of operations at a manufacturing or farming business.

Senate Bill 373 makes the violation a Class A infraction, similar to a speeding ticket. The second violation would net the offender a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

But the bill includes some exceptions, including people who have a “good faith belief” that they were recording evidence of illegal activity — as long as the person provides the recording or photograph to law enforcement within 48 hours of taking it and doesn't distribute it to any person other than law enforcement and regulatory agencies.

The law also would protect employees who turn in evidence of illegal activity from employer retaliation through whistleblower protection laws.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, said he authored the bill to stop vigilantes from taking the law into their own hands and to protect personal property rights.

“We have law enforcement and regulatory agencies to handle those kinds of situations,” he said. “We don’t need a vigilante group out there with cameras and video recorders taking pictures of things we just don’t like.”

Opponents of the bill say it infringes on freedom of the press granted by the First Amendment because journalists often use video or photos to report wrongdoing or safety violations at private businesses when there is no other way.

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden, said the bill “seriously jeopardizes free press.”

“We can’t penalize a mainstay of our democracy,” she said. “We’re smashing a fly with a sledgehammer.”

Steve Key, director of the Hoosier State Press Association, said SB 373 is bad public policy.

“This is big government taking over what the responsibilities of citizens are to defend themselves,” he said.

He said the bill could keep people from bringing to light cases of abuse and other criminal activity.

Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, said there are already laws in place to protect against trespassing, defamation and libel that would apply when somebody with malicious intentions makes recordings or videos at a private business.

“It doesn’t function, it doesn’t do what the author intended and it doesn’t protect First Amendment rights,” he said of the bill. “It seems it would be very difficult to both prosecute and defend.”

Holdman said not passing the bill would be a civil disobedience.

“This is about first amendment rights, but it’s primarily about your private property rights,” he said. “We have provided a number of good faith defenses and exemptions.”

The bill passed 30-20 and moves to the House for consideration.

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  • @Indy Actor
    well OF COURSE the legislators are OWNED by the very corporate interests that they serve and protect...this IS the United Corporations of 'Merka and that's how things work here, 'democracy' is fer commies!
  • agree
    Couldn't have said it better myself!
  • unbelievable
    This is truly pathetic that the Senate voted in favor of this bill! I've lost all respect for this group of legislators (not that I had a lot for them before) but clearly they are protecting big-ag who gives big campaign contributions. I truly pity the plight of the millions of animals that will be adversely affected because of legislation like this.
  • Curious
    I'd like to see the donation records for the politicians voting in favor of this. How many of them are recipients of political donations from these very farming and manufacturing businesses??? And if, as many in the GOP say, there are already plenty of laws on the books dealing with "guns" - surely there are already laws protecting these businesses. Why do they need Special Rights????
    • Why protect cruelty?
      I remember an HBO special in which an employee of a farm secretly videotaped a pig being hung to kill it. The videotape was shocking. Why is the legislature protecting cruelty and inhumane treatment to animals? What if it was a dog that was being hung on a farm and it looked like your pet?

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