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TAB Files Brief in Court Challenge to State Drone Law

- News Photographer Sues Over Restriction

TAB last week moved to file a friend of the court brief supporting a lawsuit filed in November 2020 by a Texas news photographer challenging the constitutionality of the state’s law restricting the use of unmanned aerial vehicles – commonly known as drones – for newsgathering purposes.

“Chapter 423 of the Texas Government Code broadly prohibits the use of drones by journalists in public airspace, yet arbitrarily exempts other members of the public from those proscriptions,” the brief argues.

As such, the statute serves as a speaker-based regulation that discriminates against the press and violates the U.S. Constitution by harming the free flow of newsworthy information to the public.

The lawsuit was filed jointly by a Texas photojournalist, the National Press Photographers Association and the Texas Press Association in November 2020 and outlines several instances where photojournalists have been forced to forgo newsgathering activities because of the law.

TAB was joined in filing the amicus brief by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 44 additional entities, including multiple station groups, the NAB and other industry advocates.

It was prepared by attorneys Paul Watler and Eric Wong with the Jackson Walker law firm.

The brief outlines the public benefit of the technology when used for newsgathering, its similarity to other technologies such as news helicopters, and how the restrictions in state law constrain the devices’ use in newsgathering while permitting other, non-journalist speakers to deploy the devices at will.

Amicus Brief

No date is set at this time for consideration by the Court, but action is anticipated sometime this fall or winter.

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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