Help protect freedom of speech in Denali National Park by sending a comment to the National Park Service by February 15, 2023.
Commercial film and photography have always required permits on public lands. The meaning of “Commercial” in the last few years has changed due to increased social media and technology use. In this day in age where a person can monetize the pictures and videos they take on their phone it’s hard to distinguish what is considered “commercial.” In 2022 the courts upheld the decision to require permits for film on public lands. You can read the full briefing explaining the potential harm to all Americans as visitation to public lands, especially national parks, has grown tremendously the past few years. The concern is any picture or video created on public lands and posted online could potentially be removed, fined or punishable in some form. Some content creators are already being required to remove their content. This certainly raises concerns that Freedom of Speech is threatened by this increased regulation.
The first National Park already proposing changes to the Superintendents Compendium is Denali National Park in Alaska with other Alaska parks not far behind. We started the Freedom Echoes campaign, and if add your voice to the process to update commercial film permit requirements, we will update you when other agencies and parks propose changes.
The following language is proposed to be changed in the Compendium and would not require a permit, “Outdoor filming activities outside of areas managed as wilderness involving five persons or less and equipment that will be carried at all times, except for small tripods used to hold cameras.”
Therefore if you have 6 people or more you would be required to obtain a permit for any type of filming activity. Another vague portion of the statement is “equipment that will be carried at all times, except for small tripods” What is considered a large tripod? Does an easel for an oil painting require a permit? The proposed changes are unclear and can change with different scenarios. NPS needs to think through the permit requirements before implementing any changes.
The proposed change to the compendium also states permits will be required in areas managed as wilderness. There is congressionally designated Wilderness but also areas that are simply managed as wilderness which means the areas you are required to obtain a permit is larger than one would initially expect. There is no language in the Wilderness Act that prevents creating content within designated Wilderness. It’s not apparent how taking a picture on your phone could harm wilderness characteristics. We’re often told that we should “take only pictures and leave only footprints.” Now Denali National Park is suggesting that even the act of taking a picture or video creates too much impact for a wilderness.
It’s not clear how these proposed changes will be enforced. NPS does not state in the proposed changes or in the current compendium what fines or penalties exist for violating film permit requirements. Permit violations in national parks can include thousands of dollars of fines, jail time and a permanent ban in all national parks.
We contacted NPS regarding our concerns and they said they will not be imposing these restrictions on accounts that are not business accounts. Features on social media to create an authorized “business account” can change from year to year and platform to platform. Some content creators monetize personal accounts. It’s not clear that NPS has the correct expertise to be surveilling and determining the commercial status of various social media accounts.
Add your voice today to protect freedom of speech on public land.