Outside had this story. What I thought was most interesting about the judge seemed to think that having permits is about environmental damage, and not so much about the taxpayers getting their share of any monetization. Andy has posted on this before here, that it has to do with the peculiar nature of Park Service regulations on filming.
In the opinion, Kollar-Kotelly noted that new technology and the evolving media landscape have changed the nature of filmmaking. The permitting system was intended to mitigate ecological impact, but an independent filmmaker shooting a climbing documentary is a much different beast than a crew shooting the next Star Wars movie.
“Now, over two decades after the passage of § 100905, any individual may easily enter a national park and shoot a high-quality video at will using nothing more than a smartphone,” she wrote. “With the expansion of mass-media outlets like YouTube, such filmmakers may expediently disseminate and monetize those videos on the internet. Yet, so long as these modern filmmakers attempt to commercially market their videos, § 100905 and its implementing regulations require a permit, without any regard for the effect that their filming might have on the preservation of national park land.”
I wonder whether the permitting system was actually designed only to charge enough to mitigate ecological impact. It seems like other kinds of permits, it’s argued that feds should charge fair value for the American taxpayer (however that is defined). As a taxpayer, it seems to me that for anyone who monetizes something from federal lands, we should get some piece of the action.
The Park Service will also no longer distinguish between different types of filming, such as commercial, noncommercial, or news-gathering projects. In the past, a major newscast wasn’t subject to obtaining a permit, nor was a production for a nonprofit, no matter the size of the crew or amount of equipment required. From now on, it’s just “filming,” and whether or not you need a permit depends solely on how much your crew will impact the park. According to the NPS, the interim guidance will “eventually be replaced with regulations addressing filming activities that are consistent with the outcome of the litigation.” For now, anyone interested in filming in a park is still encouraged to contact that park directly beforehand.
As a video producer myself, navigating the lengthy application process and red tape has frequently outweighed the benefits of shooting on public lands, and in some cases made it impossible. That’s a shame, because these lands belong to everyone and are one of this country’s greatest assets. For the Pattiz brothers, being able to easily capture the beauty and wonder of the national parks helps them accomplish their mission of sharing the parks with the greater public.
“We’re of the strong belief that greater awareness leads to more protection,” Will says. “The reason we named it More than Just Parks is that they really are more than just parks, they’re something different to everybody, and they should be a place for inclusion—these places were set aside for everyone.”