Ralph, our fictional commercial photographer, and George, our equally fictional amateur with the lovely but fictional model girlfriend have a conundrum. They want to shoot pictures in the National Parks, and there is a conflict between what the law and the regulations say – at least as interpreted by the Park Service. The statute doesn’t directly tell them what they can or cannot do, it just tells the Secretary what to do. And the regulations the Secretary is responsible for are, the NPS tells us, ineffective.
What if the implementing rules published by the various parks do not make it a violation, though? Even if the Park Service is right and the law does require a permit, if the local park rules do not, is he in violation of the law for shooting without one?
First, let’s look at what the local park superintendents have actually done since that Management Policy was published, since the superintendents’ rules really do have the force of law. As it turns out, that can get pretty confusing, as if it weren’t bad enough already. Take, for example, Key Biscayne National Park. Their advice to visitors, published on their website, says: “Permits are available for a variety of purposes, including (but not limited to): . . . commercial filming or photography . . .”
That seems, with a little ambiguity, to suggest that only commercial photography requires a permit. But website advice is not the same thing as legally binding rules. Those are published annually in each park in something called a Supervisor’s Compendium, which you can normally find by going to the “management” section of the park website, and clicking on “laws & policies” or, sometimes, by searching for “compendium” on the park’s official website. And the Superintendent’s Compendium for Biscayne is silent on the issue, leaving the ambiguity unresolved.
Sometimes it’s worse. Yosemite National park, for instance, advises visitors on its website that:
“A permit is required when the filming, videotaping, sound recording or still photography involve the use of talent, professional crews, set dressings, or props; when they involve product or service advertisement; or when the activity could result in damage to park resources or disruption of visitor use.”
And then goes on to explain:
Photography of scenery has traditionally been part of a visit to a national park. Photography does not require a permit if it involves only hand-carried equipment (tripod, interchangeable lenses or flash), and does not involve professional crews, product or service advertisement, or use of models, props or sets.
A still photography permit is required when:
* Product or service advertisement is involved;
* Talent/models, props, crews or sets are involved . . .”
Remember Ralph? Just when we thought the law, the regulations, the Management Policy and the Park Service all agreed that he didn’t need a permit to shoot his ads in the park, the Yosemite website tells him that he does. And regardless, George certainly does.
Except . . . the official park rules published in the Compendium say something different:
“(f) The following is a compilation of those activities for which a permit from the Superintendent is required:
§5.5 Commercial Photography/Filming:
• (a) Commercial filming of any motion picture, television production, or sound
track involving the use of professional casts, settings or crews, by any person
other than bona fide newsreel or news television personnel.
• (b) Still photography of any vehicle, or other articles of commerce or models for the purpose of commercial advertising.”
That’s back to the old Regulations, the ones that aren’t supposed to be effective, and says neither Ralph nor George need a permit. And the rules, not the web page advice, are what matters.
In fact, it is common throughout the National Park system for websites to advise the public something quite different than what the actual park rules say. And it is quite common for the Superintendents’ Compendiums to say something very different from what the Park Service Management Policies say, or what the NPS management tells us the law means.
And then, sometimes a park’s website will say something fully consistent with the NPS policy. As an example Zion National Park advises:
“The decision to require a permit for still photography activities in a park is based on the activity itself as opposed to the eventual use of the image. Generally, permits are not required for still photography activities unless:
· The activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
· The activity uses model(s), set(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location’s natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities;”
But the Zion Superintendent’s compendium makes no mention of still photography.
In fact, it’s quite difficult to find any park in the nation whose website advice to visitors and formal rules are consistent with the policy of the National Park Service or with the Park Service’s interpretation of Public Law 106-206. Most of them distinguish between commercial and non-commercial still photography of models in either the website advice, the Compendium of official rules, or both.
Let’s not lose sight of George and his desire to shoot his girlfriend at Lake Meade. What does the Lake Meade National Recreation Area say? Our readers in the Las Vegas area will be most interested in that.
Unlike most parks, Lake Mead provides no separate web page of advice to still photographers. It only refers them to the Superintendent’s Compendium, which advises George:
“§5.5 Commercial Photography/Filming:
(a) Commercial filming of motion pictures or television involving the use of professional casts, settings or crews, other than bona fide newsreel or news television
(b) Still photography of vehicles, or other articles of commerce or models for the purpose of commercial advertising.”
So what do you think? Does that let George off the hook? The National Park Service Regulation says he doesn’t need a permit, but the NPS says because it conflicts with the law, it is ineffective. The local Lake Mead rules don’t say he needs a permit, but NPS contends they conflicts with the law too, so perhaps they are ineffective.
Maybe George is in violation of the law without a permit regardless of what the Regulations and the rules say, as the Park Service contends. With the issues now laid out before you, you can use your own judgment. However, as a practical matter it may not matter, as the next article in the series will explain.
This article is part of a series explaining the requirements of the National Park Service for permits for photo shoots involving models. The next article is at http://dampfang.com/modeling-in-las-vegas/photographing-models-on-federal-property-national-park-service-lands-part-seven
The beginning of the series may be found at http://dampfang.com/modeling-in-las-vegas/photographing-models-on-federal-property-national-park-service-lands-3
2. Emails with Lee Dickinson, Special Park Uses Program Manager, National Park Service
3. NPS Management Policy section 8.6.6 http://www.nps.gov/policy/mp/policies.html
4. Biscayne Supervisor’s Compendium http://www.nps.gov/bisc/parkmgmt/lawsandpolicies.htm
5. Biscayne website rules: http://www.nps.gov/bisc/planyourvisit/permits.htm
6. Yosemite photography permit rules: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/filming.htm
7. Yosemite Supervisor’s Compendium
8. National NPS still photography permit rules website http://home.nps.gov/applications/digest/permits.cfm?urlarea=permits
9. Zion National Park website: http://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/upload/filming.pdf
10. Zion Supervisor’s Compendium http://www.nps.gov/zion/parkmgmt/upload/Supts%20Compendium%202009.pdf
11. Lake Meade Compendium, page 12 http://www.nps.gov/lake/parkmgmt/upload/Lake%20Mead%20NRA%20Superintendent%27s%20Compendium%202008.pdf