Sunday, March 26, 2023


Holy federal film permit, Batman! NPS calls out YouTube and TikTok users

By Cheri Sicard
Here is a little legal detail I bet a lot of folks are unaware of: Federal law requires a permit to film on national land for commercial purposes, regardless of how large or small your operation is.

Yes, that includes your YouTube or TikTok accounts, provided you are deriving income from them.

The video below from the folks at RV Miles will get you up to date on the nuances of the law. But know that the National Parks Service (NPS) has specifically called out YouTube and TikTok influencers and content creators.

The video begins with a short history of what started this issue in the first place. It began 22 years ago for ALL federal agencies to issue a permit and collect a fee for ANY filming on public land for commercial purposes. Ostensibly, this is to keep big film crews from taking over public lands, but the law extended to ANYONE, even a single person with a cell phone, filming on federal land.

But of course, the law was written long before cell phones and the internet phenomenon we know now. And the law was written in a confusing way.

It used to be that the NPS would drop the case if you got a citation for filming on public lands, but a filmmaker named Gordi Price challenged the law and the court sided with him saying the type of content, commercial or public, cannot be differentiated. The NPS dropped its rules.

BUT the NPS appealed the Price decision and a DC appeals court voted 2 to 1 to reverse the original decision saying that the creation of the content does not constitute protected free speech.

The third judge strongly disagreed.

What’s the issue? Federal lands constitute a whole lot beyond national parks. For instance, if you were to film a protest on the Washington Mall, you would need a permit.

There are exceptions for large media news organizations, but that leaves a lot of smaller journalists out in the cold.

It was hoped that the NPS would adapt the new rules to the new world we live in, but that did not happen. They recently released their updated rules on their website. Do watch the video for details, but this is where YouTubers, TikTokers, freelancers, et al., will be affected.

The NPS does say their focus is on larger productions. However, the rules say a permit is required. So they do appear to be sending some mixed messages. And the process of getting that permit can be challenging.

Again, watch the video because there are tons of reasons why you might be denied a permit. And you must plan FAR in advance. And expect a $100 or more nonrefundable application fee. And provide liability insurance.

Getting a permit is daunting and will NOT make sense for most individuals. Jason also covers the absurdity and conflicts in these rules, and offers suggestions for what reasonable rules should be.

Does it impact the news and free speech issues? Jason says it is a free speech issue. What do you think about this policy? Watch the video below, and make sure you read this article by our own Russ and Tiña De Maris for more information.



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26 days ago

As soon as you contemplate monetizing your videos or photos, then you should contemplate pulling a permit. The parks are maintained with tax dollars are not backdrops or settings for your cottage business or your side hustle.

26 days ago

so sick and tired of the “me and I” crowd who could care less about permits to film and market their videos from National Parks. They feel they are privileged and “how dare you” question their motives.

26 days ago

Those that feel this is a free speech issue do not understand the First Amendment, particularly with regard to commercial speech.

It’s not complicated- if you want to film in national parks, either get a permit to use it for commercial purposes or don’t use it for commercial purposes.

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