Legislation out of focus

The Indianapolis (Ind.) Star: Secret cameras have exposed numerous instances of unhealthful, inhumane and illegal conditions on farms and in other businesses over the years, often leading to highly beneficial corrective action.

Still, videos and photos have been shot and posted on the Internet at times by unscrupulous or irresponsible intruders who succeeded only in making undeserved trouble for the proprietors.

Indiana Senate Bill 373 seeks to address the latter at the expense of the former. The measure is unnecessary and the cost is too great, not only to investigative journalists, animal rights activists and other keenly interested parties, but also to the general public.

The legislation would impose criminal penalties on anyone who, without permission, shot and distributed videos or pictures on someone’s property “with intent to harass, defame, annoy, or harm.”

Those perceived intentions amount to “a very, very low threshold for a criminal investigation,” says Stephen Key, general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association. “A farmer could come in and say ‘This person intentionally annoyed me.’ “

Existing remedies

If that person truly were in the wrong, Key points out, several existing remedies could be used against him. Laws already guard against trespassing and libel, for example. Employees and visitors could be made to sign agreements not to take pictures, and sued if they violated them.

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