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Attention YouTubers: National Park Filming Permits Ruled “Unconstitutional”

Attention YouTubers: National Park Filming Permits Ruled “Unconstitutional”

Hey YouTubers! You no longer have to pay exorbitant fees or apply for permits to film your content in National Parks! And no more worrying about fines or jail time, either. That’s what a federal judge suggested with a recent ruling.

The National Park Service has had a filming statute in place for over a decade. This rule required commercial filmmakers to apply for and pay for permits for filming in National Parks. 

This statute has made headlines recently. In 2020, popular travel vloggers were fined and threatened with arrest for making YouTube content in National Parks. 

But a Federal Judge just ruled this statute unconstitutional!

Let’s dive into the details.

D.C. Federal Judge Finds Commercial Content Permit Requirements and Fees In National Parks “Unconstitutional”

A D.C. federal judge has ruled the statute requiring “commercial filmmakers” to obtain a permit and pay fees for filming to be unconstitutional. This ruling comes to the delight of YouTubers and Filmmakers everywhere.

Acccording to the ruling, filmmaking in National Parks is expressive speech. The First Amendment protects expressive speech, making the statute unconstitutional.

RV YouTube Couple Fined $1000, Threatened With Arrest For Filming In National Park

In 2020, popular YouTube Travel Vloggers Kara and Nate were fined $1000 for filming parts of their YouTube videos in both Rocky Mountain and Great Sand Dunes National Park. 

An anonymous tipster reported their content to the NPS. The couple were issued a fine for $1000 and prohibited from filming in National Parks without a permit again. They were also threatened with jail time for failure to pay their fines. 

What is “Commercial Content”? 

Commercial filming includes producing any kind of digital content with the intent of producing an income. 

Kara and Nate earn income from their videos from advertising. This makes their content deemed “commercial”. And, as a result, they were fined and prohibited from filming without a permit. 

Permits and Fees for Commercial Filming in National Parks

Previous to this ruling, in order to film “commercial content” in National Parks, you’d have to pay exorbitant fees and obtain permits for all days of shooting. Also, you’d have to provide a detailed itinerary. Permits cost $300 to apply and $150 per day of filming. Additionally, you could wait weeks for an approval. 

This rule doesn’t make sense for travel vloggers and RV YouTubers. Vloggers simply film their travels. Also, they typically don’t have large filming budgets or daily itineraries.

Luckily, these fines and permits are no longer something to worry about.

Grand Teton National Park Sign

Gordon Price and Crawford Road 

Crawford Road is an indie film by director Gordon Price, released in 2018. The film is a feature about an area in York County and in Colonial National Historic Park about hauntings and unsolved disappearances. 

The film debuted in 2018 to an audience of under 300 people. A few months later, Gordon Price received a violation by two NPS officers for failure to obtain a commercial filming permit. 

Gordon Price sued the US Attorney General and officials from the NPS and Department of the Interior in December 2019. He challenged the constitutionality of the fees and permits required for commercial filming. 

Jamestown Settlement, Colonial National Historic Park

The First Amendment Protects Filming In National Parks

In a ruling by D.C. Federal Court Judge Kollar-Kotelly in regards to Gordon Price and Crawford Road, “filmmaking at these parks constitutes a form of expressive speech protected by the first amendment.” 

One of the reasons National Parks had a rule surrounding commercial filming was to help protect natural resources. 

In the past, commercial filming required a large amount of equipment and a large crew. But today, anyone can go to a National Park and shoot a “commercial film” or video using just a GoPro or smartphone. 

Judge Kollar-Kotelly points out that technology has progressed a great deal since the original statute was created. Also that “any individual may easily enter a national park and shoot a high-quality video at will using nothing more than a smart phone.”

The Judge has issued a permanent injunction that prohibits permit and fee requirements for commercial filming in National Parks.

Can YouTubers and Travel Vloggers Now Film in National Parks Without a Permit? 

With the statute requiring permits and fees deemed unconstitutional, YouTubers and Travel Vloggers can now breathe a sigh of relief.

You don’t have to worry about obtaining a permit to film in National Parks. Nor do you have to worry about fines or jail time for failure to do so. 

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  1. Bob says:

    Here’s one thing to remember. Our National Parks need fee money to continue to provide services. So if no one wants to pay fees you may one day find Parks closed or open but no toilets or garbage disposal or campgrounds. The park service has been underfunded for decades as federal money has gone to wars.
    I never understand why people think you can get services for free. There is no free lunch!
    This is why our dispersed camping is getting closed. There are no services supplied. So when a$#hats leave a mess thinking some part of government is going to clean up after them all the government can do is close the area.

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