the first amendment: Public video and audio recording

As it has been in the past (see here and here), the right to record police officers in a public space is a contested issue.

On the 26th of August the public took a step forward. This quote is taken from the Court of Appeal’s report of Glik v. Cunniffe (1st Cir.), and a summation can be found at the Volokh Conspiracy:

Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting “the free discussion of governmental affairs.” Moreover, as the Court has noted, “[f]reedom of expression has particular significance with respect to government because ‘[i]t is here that the state has a special incentive to repress opposition and often wields a more effective power of suppression.’” This is particularly true of law enforcement officials, who are granted substantial discretion that may be misused to deprive individuals of their liberties. Ensuring the public’s right to gather information about their officials not only aids in the uncovering of abuses but also may have a salutary effect on the functioning of government…

I view this issue as circling the importance of balance. At all times, the people are up against their government, to hold them responsible for the decisions that they make. In turn, the government is there to keep the public in order. Without equal checks on both sides, the freedoms of groups and individuals can be stepped on.

In this most recent case, I believe the court is correct in noting that the gathering of information is a huge part of this balance. The citizens and their government should be looked upon.

To be more specific, I am also in favor of a separation between public and private spaces. Also, in the case of police making arrests, any video taping that takes place should not hold up their activities. The police should have the right to do their jobs without infringement. The public should have the right to take in their surroundings without censorship by those who feel they have immunity toward being observed.

Even further analysis can be found at the Citizen Media Law Project.

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2 comments
  1. jskitter said:

    Good collection of links. Maybe re-label the one that establishes the earlier precedent under much more extenuating circumstances?

    It’s interesting that the lengthy court opinions ultimately have quite narrow scope, as opposed to legislation that tries to account for endless hypotheticals.

  2. bovis said:

    Perhaps it is the type of material, that judges deal with, which determines their response. The court is interested in one person (or group) performing an action (or a small number of actions). After a ruling, it is then it is up to individuals who decide how to follow or enforce the law.

    With legislation it may be quite different. Take health care, for example. The health care bill is large because they are trying to cover the method in which everyone will react to the law. It deals with the country as a whole, not with single persons. The individual, once the bill is passed, has little say in the interpretation.

    Of course you could argue about which method works better until your brain turned to mush. On the surface, at least, I favor the method of the courts, because I like the ability for laws to be flexible. This does come at the price of needing further judging to smooth out details of rulings which are more broad.

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