Benefits / Resources / Articles
May 26, 2023

Advocating for Photographers’ Rights: The FILM Act’s Progress and Implications

The Federal Interior Land Media Act better known as the FILM Act was recently introduced in Senate and House of Representatives. Senators Joe Manchin and John Barrasso presented the bill (S.873) as part of a comprehensive federal lands package, while Representative Russ Fulcher introduced it as a standalone bill (H.R.1576). After passing the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the legislation is currently awaiting review in the House Natural Resources committee. PPA is actively advocating for the bill to be brought to the floor for a vote. We have collaborated extensively with these elected officials to ensure the concerns of photographers are well-represented, and we take pride in the progress we have made thus far.

Under the existing federal law, photographers may face imprisonment for up to 6 months if they photograph on federal property without a permit. PPA believes that this poses an excessively burdensome risk for small businesses, particularly when engaging in otherwise lawful activities. We have successfully advocated for changes to address this issue. One notable change is the inclusion of photographers in the permits for activities that are already permitted. For instance, in certain National Parks like Grand Teton National Park, photographers were previously required to apply for separate permits, even if their clients had already obtained permits for weddings in the park. This requirement placed an unnecessary burden on photographers, when in reality, the impact on the park was primarily due to the wedding itself, not the presence of a single photographer. These are just a few examples of the changes we have achieved in collaboration with the sponsors of the FILM Act. However, the bill still needs to pass out of the House Natural Resources committee before it can be voted on by the full House. To support this crucial legislation, our Government Affairs Team will be lobbying on Capitol Hill next week.

Professional photographers, especially those who capture images on federal lands, are dedicated stewards of the natural beauty they capture. The preservation of our nation's most significant treasures is paramount to the thousands of photographic businesses that depend on them. Therefore, we have diligently worked to enhance the FILM Act by shifting the focus from the mere act of capturing an image to the impact that specific activities have on the environment. Photography has long been practiced on federal lands, even predating their designation as National Parks or National Forests, and it can be argued that it was the power of these photographs that led to their federal protection. Preserving this right for the next generation of photographers is essential.

In recent years and months, individuals with large cameras or significant social media followings have been singled out for not obtaining permits based on the assumption that their content is intended for commercial purposes. However, we believe that the distinction between commercial and noncommercial purposes is irrelevant. The critical factor should be the environmental impact of the activity. Photographers who visit federal lands and have no greater impact on the environment than an individual using a smartphone and should not be required to apply for special permits.

If you have any questions or concerns about this statement of policy please contact Luc Boulet, Government Affairs Manager at [email protected]