YouTuber Rules for Filming Inside Airports (YouTuber Law Series)?

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Can I film my YouTube videos inside the airport?

Lior Leser, Esq.
Technology, Internet and Software Law

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I’ve enjoyed many YouTube videos shot inside airports including some great ones by Casey Neistant and FouseyTube.

I was just watching one this morning when the question came up. What are the rules when video recording in the airport.

The answer to this question is not quite as straight forward as we’d like. It is based on two ideas.

(1) What is the exact function of the particular part of the airport that you are filming in?

and

(2) What is a “reasonable” restriction on your right to record while in that part of the airport.

The seminal case in this matter came in 1992, long before anyone ever thought of YouTube. It was a case between the Krishnas and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

In that case, the the Supreme Court held that while the airport is not a public forum, different level of reasonable when it comes to restricting speech must be attributed to different part of the area.

I know. There are many blogs out there that say that airports are public forums. According to the Supreme Court, these blogs are wrong.

Th Supreme court reviewed the historical nature of airports and determined that unlike public streets and parks, both of which have been identified as “traditional public fora,” airports do not have among their various purposes the “free exchange of ideas.

Now that makes sense.

Although most airports do not ordinarily restrict public access, “publicly owned or operated property does not become a ‘public forum’ simply because members of the public are permitted to come and go at will

So..Airports are not public forums but does that mean, the government can restrict our right to record videos at will.

Not exactly. Government action is not absolute.

The Supreme Court consistently stated that restrictions on speech in nonpublic fora are valid only if they are “reasonable” and “not an effort to suppress expression.”

So reasonableness is the standard. And How do we determine if any restrictions on recording is “reasonable”?

That’s done in light of the purpose of the specific location and the surrounding circumstances.

You see. not all part of the airport is restricted to people who are actually traveling. A big part of a modern airport, outside of security, is available to both travelers and not travelers. Consider it a publicly owned mall and food court.

What sort of restrictions are “reasonable” there?

In the area outside of security, the only restrictions that are reasonable are ones that don’t hinder the flow of people for the purpose of air traffic. So filming yourself talking while walking through the non-secure parts of the airport is fine.

What happens as you get close to the TSA security area. Well there the purpose is not only traffic flow but security as well. In that area, anything that you do that hinders or delays either function may be restricted.

What does that mean. It means, you should ask TSA personnel about filming in the area. In many airports, there are specific rules that “encourage” or require filming permits or advance notice. It is best to find out if your airport has those rules and provide advance notice to TSA of your intention to film.

Alternatively, at least let personal at security know. If they say no … i suggest that you refrain from filming. Any arguments with TSA or worse with Police can lead to delays and security concerns that may be the basis for preventing you from filming. Normally, they’ll ask you not to film the monitors or some special security procedures.

Once you are past security, what are the rules? Well there you are in an area that is restricted to travelers only. There are some security function in that area too, but the predominate function is traffic flow and function. You should be free to film yourself in a v-log format. Again do not cause any delays, do not use the video to engage others unrelated to you or your group, and do not setup in area where you are hindering the flow of people. But don’t forget that this is a secure area so … if asked … please listen to any restrictions and never start a commotion or argument with officials.

So … wherever you are in the airport ask yourself

(1) what is the function served by this area in the airport, and
(2) what reasonable restrictions can they place on my video recordings to prevent me from interfering with this functions.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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