Texas cracks down on citizen drone use

A new law in Texas punishes most drone use by citizens but leaves the option wide open for law enforcement.

Drones like these are used recreationally and by journalists and activists. Recently, a drone user in Dallas accidentally captured footage of a creek running red with pigs' blood. Consequently, the meatpacking plant responsible was fined for illegal dumping. But that kind of citizen use of drones fitted with cameras will become a lot riskier under this new Texas law. (Via ABCKCBD)

Put into effect Sept. 1, it makes the use of drones to capture images of people or property without permission punishable by a fine up to $500. And it allows the people who were filmed to collect up to $10,000 in civil penalties if the images were distributed with malicious intent. (Via The Verge)

It's a push for privacy, but it could be a big issue for groups such as PETA, which recently announced plans to watch for animal abuse with drones. Journalists aren't too pleased, either. After the Texas law passed, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Press Photographers Association and even the Motion Pictures Association of America penned a joint letter that says in part, "A journalist monitoring an environmental spill … or simply monitoring traffic conditions could easily be committing a crime under this bill." (Via CNNComputerworld)

And those groups argue the law violates freedom of speech promised in the Constitution. Now, law enforcement agencies will have fewer problems with this policy. Along with students and researchers using drones, police have been exempted from the ban.

In fact, Texas police won't even need warrants — just suspicion — before using camera drones. The drones pictured here are U.S. Predator drones used in warfare, not the kind used by police. (Via PBS)

But it’s the Department of Defense drones that are credited with ramping up concerns about drone use domestically. Texas’ new law is one of a kind, but at least 40 other state legislatures have debated proposals to crack down on drone use in one way or another.

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