JACKSON, Wyo. — On January 22, 2021, Federal Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, ruled it to be unconstitutional for the National Park Service to require permits or charge fees for commercial filming within National Parks.
Judge Kollar-Kotelly found that filming a movie is expressive speech and protected under the first amendment, based on previous Supreme Court and Circuit Court rulings.
In her memorandum opinion, Judge Kollar-Kotelly stated that “in issuing this injunction, the Court observes that a more targeted permitting regime for commercial filming, which is more closely connected to the threat posed by large groups and heavy filming equipment, may pass constitutional muster in the future.”
The National Park Service (NPS) is now working on reassessing commercial filming permits and how to implement this ruling. According to their website, the NPS will not be implementing or enforcing commercial filming until further notice, including accepting applications, issuing permits, enforcing the terms and conditions of permits, issuing citations related to permits, or collecting cost recovery and location fees for commercial filming activities.
The ruling was based on commercial filming and has no impact on still photography regulations.
Photography permits are required only when the activity takes place at locations where or when members of the public are generally not allowed, or the activity uses models, sets, or props that are not a part of the location’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities, or when a park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity.
Grand Teton National Park collects a $325 application fee and an additional day fee depending on the size of the group shooting photos. One to 10 people is $50 per day, 11-30 people is $150 per day, and over 30 people is $250 per day.
The NPS is encouraging those interested in commercial filming activities to contact the park directly and is reminding videographers, filmers, producers, directors, and other staff associated with commercial filming that rules and regulations that apply to all park visitors still apply to filming activities even if no permit is needed for their activity.