Over the past week, Arkansas Senate has been working diligently to pass SB-79 - known as the Personal Rights Protection Act. While the bill is designed to protect the privacy and rights of the citizens within the state, it also effectively makes Street Photography illegal from viewing or taking in the state of Arkansas.
The bill's full name does a lot as to explaining the bill. Entitled “To Enact the Personal Rights Protection Act: and to Protect the Property Rights of an Individual to the Use of the Individual’s Name, Voice, Signature, and Likeness”, this bill is designed to take an individual's Rights of Publicity to an extreme, by allowing it illegal for them to be photographed or filmed on public grounds without a written consent.
As the ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) explains --
The implications of this bill are staggering. For example, an image showing recognizable people posted to the Internet for a use that would not require written consent anywhere else in the world could leave you open to a lawsuit just because someone in Arkansas could view it online.
SB-79 places an unprecedented burden on all photographers whose work could be viewed within the state of Arkansas to either get explicit consent from every individual whose likeness appears in all of their photographs or risk defending themselves in a lawsuit where they will have to shoulder the burden of proving the use of their photographs qualifies as an exempted use
The ASMP is not the only ones who have came forward addressing this bill in the negative light. The PPA has also stepped forward, writing an open letter to Governor Hutchinson, stating that with the vague wording of the bill, SB-79 could potentially put thousands of photography studios out of business. The new bill would make it so release forms would need to be obtained from every guest at weddings and other events that may be photographed on a professional level. They have attached their open letter below --
The ASMP and others have banded together to get this bill dropped from Arkansas law. The bill must be vetoed by Tuesday to ensure it does not go into law. The ASMP has asked all photographers (not just photographers in Arkansas) to stand up and write Governor Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Chief of Staff Michael Lamoureux encouraging them to drop the bill from Arkansas law. You can find more information as to how to write them by clicking here.
Update -- 3pm EST March 30th
As a result of the public outcry of Bill SB-79, Governor Asa Hutchinson has chosen to veto the bill in question. Along with his action of vetoing the bill, Gov. Hutchinson released the following statement --
In its current form, the bill unnecessarily restricts free expression and thus could have a chilling effect on freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In addition, SB79 exempts certain types of noncommercial speech while failing to exempt other forms of noncommercial speech. The absence of these exemptions could result in unnecessary litigation and suppress Arkansans who engage in artistic expression.
Great job well done, friends.
[Photo by John David Pittman | Used With Permission]