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PPA Helps Potentially Harmful Arkansas Bill Get Vetoed for State's Photographers - PPA Today

PPA Helps Potentially Harmful Arkansas Bill Get Vetoed for State's Photographers

Early this week, an Arkansas PPA affiliate (APPA) notified us of Arkansas Senate Bill 79: the Personal Rights Protection Act. After researching SB-79, PPA's copyright & government affairs department developed serious concerns about what this bill could mean for professional photographers, not just in Arkansas but nationwide.

The proposed bill was full of troublesome ambiguities and vague definitions making it very difficult to comprehend. Based on our understanding, the proposed bill, which was meant to protect privacy, contained unintended, dangerous implications which could be very harmful to photographers, to the point that it would threaten the livelihood of their businesses. SB-79 included clauses that would make it so photographers need a model release for any "person" in the image. This includes anyone in the background. Furthermore, under the law, "persons" even pertains to more than just people. According to the bill, "Person" is defined as an individual or entity including a corporation, company, association, partnership, or any other business entity.

The greater problem with the bill is that a difficult burden of proof would lie upon the infringer, which according to this bill, is, you guessed it, the photographer. For instance, if someone sees himself in the background of an image that was published without his permission, he could sue a photographer and say his privacy was invaded. The photographer would be responsible for defending themselves against the claim by proving the image falls within a very confusing list of "fair uses" or that they had explicit permission from the person to use it (a model release). This could mean expensive legal fees for the photographer--fees these small business owners simply cannot afford. 

The bill would open photographers to liability claims from any person in an image, including the background, when viewed anywhere from within Arkansas, including the Internet. That's right! This is where this bill becomes a concern for photographers beyond Arkansas. The image didn't need to be created in the state of Arkansas, but if someone saw it on the Internet while they were in Arkansas, they could claim it as a violation of their privacy and file a claim in an Arkansas court.

While PPA was researching all about this, the bill was already sitting on the desk of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson needing to be vetoed by Tuesday March 31, or it would become law. Disclaimer: this is NOT an April fools. 

PPA and APPA spent Monday March 30th in communication with the Governor's office and submitted a letter to Governor Hutchinson on behalf of the organization. The letter signed by PPA president Michael Timmons (which can be viewed in full here: 
SB-79 Letter.pdf) outlines PPA's concerns with SB-79 and asked the Governor to veto it. Additionally, the letter offers for PPA to partner in creating a new bill that accomplishes its privacy protection purposes without having unintended detrimental effects for professional photographers.

Here is an excerpt:


SB-79 would quite simply make it impossible for many types of photographers, such as wedding and event photographers, to exist. They would be burdened by the fear that they could be sued if their photographs are viewed in Arkansas. Professional photographers are under very real economic pressures. The average portrait, wedding, and event photographer currently works more than 50 hours a week, and earns around $35,000 a year. They simply cannot afford to pay legal fees to defend themselves in court, especially knowing that they are still liable for those legal fees even if the court finds in their favor. This law places an unprecedented burden on photographers with catastrophic implications.

Tuesday afternoon, Governor Hutchinson's office issued a press release stating that the Governor has vetoed the bill and offering this letter to the Senate. Governor Hutchinson says in his letter that, in its current form, SB-79 "is overbroad, vague and will have the effect of restricting free speech." He also notes that he received "scores of letters" from photographers raising their concerns. Governor Hutchinson expressed support of the original intent of the bill but that he cannot support it in its current form.

As of now, PPA has offered to help with the creation of a new bill and if or when any updates become available you will find them posted here to the blog. This threatening bill and PPA's jumping in to help is one more reason photographers need to stick together and be represented on Capitol Hill. You can rest assured PPA has your back!


John Owens is PPA's resident wordsmith. Know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? That's where he comes in. The Connecticut transplant and (still) avid Hartford Whalers fan is an aspiring adventurist/novelist/racer on a lifelong quest to find the best trails, brews and burger

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This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on April 1, 2015 9:36 PM.

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