Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Circuit Court Affirms Right to Record Videos in Public

As noted by the New York Times, a recent First Circuit decision in Glik v. Cunniffe affirms the First Amendment right to make video recordings in public places.

The appellee, Simon Glik, had a particularly strong case because he was filming police officers making an arrest. As the court noted in its August 25 decision, "Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting 'the free discussion of governmental affairs.'"

Moreover, even had Glik been affiliated with a university, his actions did not constitute human-subjects research under the current regulatory definition, since he did not voluntarily interact with the officers he was filming. (They interacted with him by arresting him on bogus charges, but I would hope no IRB would hold that against him.)

Still, it is worth considering the significance of the court's more general statement that the First Amendment protects the gathering of information as well as its dissemination:
It is firmly established that the First Amendment's aegis extends further than the text's proscription on laws "abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press," and encompasses a range of conduct related to the gathering and dissemination of information. As the Supreme Court has observed, "the First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw." First Nat'l Bank v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 783 (1978); see also Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557, 564 (1969) ("It is . . . well established that the Constitution protects the right to receive information and ideas."). An important corollary to this interest in protecting the stock of public information is that "[t]here is an undoubted right to gather news 'from any source by means within the law.'" Houchins v. KQED, Inc., 438 U.S. 1, 11 (1978) (quoting Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 681-82 (1972)).
At the very least, such statements complicate claims that "human-subjects research is a privilege and not a right."

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