NPS can’t require commercial filming permits, violates First Amendment

WASHINGTON, D.C — A federal judge ruled it to be unconstitutional for the National Park Service to require permits or charge fees for commercial filming within National Parks.

In 2019, filmmaker Gordon M. Price brought a case against the Attorney General of the United States, The Department of the Interior, and the Director of the National Park Service, collectively. Price, an independent filmmaker from Virginia filmed scenes for his film, Crawford Road, within the Yorktown Battlefield in the Colonial National Historical Park.

Price used a camera tripod and a microphone and had no more than four people present when shooting the scenes, according to the Judge’s opinion memorandum.  The film premiered at a restaurant in Virginia in October of 2018 and in December of 2018, Price was issued a violation notice for failure to obtain a commercial filming permit from National Park Service officers.

Judge Colleen 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.

What this ruling means for Grand Teton National Park has yet to be seen. Judge Kollar-Kotelly stated in her memorandum opinion 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.”

Grand Teton National Park’s website still lists commercial filming as a permit required activity. The park defines commercial filming as, “Commercial filming means the film, electronic, magnetic, digital, or other recordings of a moving image by a person, business, or other entity for a market audience with the intent of generating income. Examples include, but are not limited to, feature film, videography, television broadcast, or documentary, or other similar projects. Commercial filming activities may include the advertisement of a product or service, or the use of actors, models, sets, or props.”

About The Author

Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.

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