Florida Amends Controversial Photography Bill

The Florida legislature recently passed an amended version of State Senator Jim Norman’s controversial farm photography bill. The original bill would have made it a felony to film or photograph a farm or ranch without the explicit permission of the farm’s owner. Inadvertently included in this bill would have been tourists taking pictures at the side of the road, pictures or films taken from airplanes, video by police officers in traffic stops and countless other innocuous images captured without permission in Florida rural areas.

Norman’s initially goal was to stop animal rights activists from producing undercover videos on Florida farms. Film like Food Inc have spurred investigations into food production and galvanized animal rights groups. Undercover videos frequently embarrass agricultural producers and are frequently to cause of industry reform and regulation. Norman claimed that these videos are taken out of context and grossly prejudicial.

The amendments to the bill downgrade the punishment for unauthorized filming. The original punishment was a first degree felony, a punishment that carries the same jail time as murder or rape. The current version of the bill lowers the punishment to a misdemeanor. Also stripped form the bill is the broad language. The current version punishes people who film or photograph a farm upon entering the property without permission. Also exempted are police and official investigatory agencies.

Animal rights groups like PETA and the Humane Society are still protesting the bill, claiming that it is an attempt to silence activists. PETA vowed to continue highlighting animal abuses despite the proposed law.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer