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New Florida Drone Restrictions May Hinder Press Photography

Michael MK Khor, via Flickr

Last week, Governor Rick Scott approved new restrictions for drones, but the question of how drones clash with the first amendment hovers over the heads of Floridians.

The issue of who can record what using drones has gotten more restrictive since Governor Rick Scott signed drone legislation into law, and some fear it might have ripple effects on journalists. Michelle Richardson of the Florida ACLU, says the definition of what constitutes “private property” has gotten muddy.

“The line has always been, ‘what is in public view?’ and, when you’re standing on the ground, that’s usually pretty clear, right? It’s what’s in your line of sight,” Richardson says, “and there isn’t a lot of case law about what happens when you go up in the air, and you’re now looking down at people’s property.”

As Richardson explains, journalists already use helicopters and drones to catch an aerial perspective, and the new restrictions add unnecessary red tape. The law prohibits all drone-based recording or photography of private property. While there were no criminal penalties attached to the law, the threat of lawsuits still looms over drone operators.

Matthew Seeger began his work in radio in 2012, during an internship he took with WUSF in Tampa. He went on to volunteer at 89.7 FM “The Voice” for several years as a news anchor and production assistant. He began working with the WFSU news team in January of 2015. In addition to reporting the news, Matt is a voice actor, having recorded and produced several creative audio pieces, as well as his own series for V89’s Vox Populi program called “Tales from Hell Creek,”-- a series of slice-of-life vignettes about dinosaurs.