Texas Privacy Act update

by   |  10.10.13  |  Privacy

I’ve been pretty open with folks that I think the Texas Privacy Act, passed this summer, is unconstitutional. The act reads:

Sec. 423.003. OFFENSE: ILLEGAL USE OF UNMANNED AIRCRAFT TO CAPTURE IMAGE. (a) A person commits an offense if the person uses an unmanned aircraft to capture an image of an individual or privately owned real property in this state with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property captured in the image.

I’m apparently exempt from the law under this provision, but general media are not:

Sec. 423.002. NONAPPLICABILITY. (a) It is lawful to capture an image using an unmanned aircraft in this state:

(1) for purposes of professional or scholarly research and development by a person acting on behalf of an institution of higher education, as defined by Section 61.003, Education Code, including a person who:

(A) is a professor, employee, or student of the institution; or…

That, to me, makes it an unconstitutional content specific restriction on a fundamental First Amendment right of newsgathering.

Here’s a recent note from an officer at the Texas Press Association in response to my question about the law:

Mr. Pybus,

Mike Hodges forwarded your message about the Texas Privacy Act for response. TPA shares your concern. We fought hard against the bill during the legislative session, along with the Texas Association of Broadcasters, the National Press Photographers Association and the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful. I suspect the new law will be challenged in court by a member of the media before long. If that should occur, TPA will consider filing an amicus brief challenging the law’s constitutionality. Thank you.

Donnis Baggett
Executive Vice President
Texas Press Association