Update on Arizona Drone Laws

Farming by Mauricio Lima from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Farming by Mauricio Lima from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

UPDATE: Americans don’t have to register their drones if they’re only used for non-commercial purposes (May 19, 2017). Ignore anything below that says you have to register your drone if you only use it for fun.

Earlier this year, Arizona passed a new law regarding unmanned aircraft systems (UASs), aka drones. The purpose of this law is to prevent cities from making separate regulations. This law makes it a misdemeanor to use a drone in a way that interferes with law enforcement or fire operations. It’s a felony to use a drone to “intentionally photograph or loiter over or near a critical facility in the furtherance of any criminal offense.”

I have heard reports of drones interfering with aerial firefighting operations, causing planes to be grounded, but I have yet to hear of anyone be cited or arrested for violating this law.

On the flip side, the law is helpful to hobbyists by requiring cities with more than one park to allow drones in at least one of them. Beyond that, the law requires drone operators to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) rules of UASs.

Rules for Flying a Drone for Fun
The FAAs rules for flying a drone as a hobbyist are pretty simple and straightforward:

  • All drones over 0.55 lbs must be registered. Your drone and its cargo total weight must be under 55 lbs.
  • You must always fly your drone in your unassisted visual line-of-sight (exception for prescription eyeglasses or contacts).
  • You must fly your drone at an altitude that is less than 400 feet.
  • Always yield the right of way to manned aircraft.
  • You can’t fly a drone within 5 miles of an airport without prior notification.

I imagine some drone enthusiasts or clubs have mapped where the 5-mile radius around each Phoenix-area airport ends. Hopefully, wherever you live in Arizona, there’s a place near your home where you can fly your drone. My dog was intrigued and a little frightened when we encountered a drone-flyer at a park.

Rules for Flying a Drone for Business Purposes
The FAA’s rules for using a drone for commercial purposes are much more complicated. Here are some of the requirements that apply in addition to the rules above:

  • Operators must be at least 16 years old and have a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate
  • Drone operators cannot operate more than one drone simultaneously.
  • The maximum permissible groundspeed is 100 mph.
  • You must fly your drone during the day.
  • No flying drones over people (exception for those involved in the drone operation).
  • No flying drones from a moving vehicle except in sparsely populated areas.
  • No carrying hazardous materials with your drone.

You can read the full summary of the FAA’s rules for commercial drone operations, including record and reporting requirements, on the FAA website. If your project requires violating these rules, you can apply for a certificate of waiver if you can demonstrate that your project can be executed safely.

More Information
If you have additional questions or want to stay up-to-date on the legalities of flying drones, check out the FAA’s UASs site or Know Before You Fly. You can also seek out a local lawyer who understands the federal and local drone rules that apply to you. If you want to connect with me, you can contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn. You can also get access to more exclusive content that is available only to people on my mailing list, by subscribing here.

Arizona Reviving its Revenge Porn Law

Figure and Form by The Narratographer from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Figure and Form by The Narratographer
from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Arizona lawmakers are trying to bring back the revenge porn law.

The Arizona House of Representatives unanimously passed HB2001 last week. This bill would make it a crime to share “revenge porn” without the person’s permission. The previous revenge porn law was suspended when the court ruled that the verbiage of the law was overly broad. This new version has been tailored to better address the problematic behavior. If this bill becomes a law, it will be

[U]nlawful for a person to intentionally disclose an image of another person who is identifiable from the image itself or from information displayed in connection with the image if all the following apply:
1. The person in the image is depicted in a state of nudity or is engaged in specific sexual activities.
2. The depicted person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. Evidence that a person has sent an image to another person using an electronic device does not, on its own, remove the person’s reasonable expectation of privacy for that image.
3. The image is disclosed with the intent to harm, harass, intimidate, threaten or coerce the depicted person.

If this law passes, it will illegal to post your ex-partner’s naked selfie online or show it to a friend, even if your partner voluntarily shared the image with you. The requirement of intent is beneficial; it will protect artists, galleries, and bookstores from criminal prosecution if they inadvertently use a nude image without a model release.

If this law passes, the penalties will be similar to other sexual crimes:

I hope this law passes. Based on the number of questions I get about revenge porn, this is a problem that is not going away on its own. If it passes, I hope there will be campaigns to quickly educate people – in every age group. If you have a cell phone, you have the means to create explicit images and send revenge porn.  Comprehensive, age-appropriate education needs to be disseminated in homes, schools, community groups, and via social media, because ignorance of the law will not absolve you from the consequences.

Stay educated about social media law – this list of revenge porn laws in the U.S. is regularly updated. If you have a question about revenge porn, internet law, or photography rights, please contact me directly or connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

Supreme Court Rules on Social Media & Free Speech – What It Means

Man Holding Laptop Computer Typing While Dog Watches by Image Catalog from Flickr (Public Domain)

Man Holding Laptop Computer Typing While Dog Watches by Image Catalog from Flickr (Public Domain)

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court released its ruling on the first social media free speech case.

Anthony Elonis was previously convicted for violating a federal law for posting threatening messages on his own Facebook page. The court that convicted him did so based on the negligence standard, which is whether a reasonable person would interpret his statements as threats.

The Supreme Court ruled that the lower court used the wrong standard in making its decision. A court can’t use the reasonable person standard to decide cases like this – it has to be higher standard than that.

So what happens now? The Supreme Court sent the Elonis case back down to the lower court. The lower court will have to decide whether it should apply the recklessness standard or whether it should examine Elonis’ intent behind the posts in question.

What does this mean for other cases, perhaps those involving domestic violence or cyber harassment? We’ll see. All we know now is that the court has to apply a higher standard than simply asking whether a reasonable person who interpret a statement as a threatening. We will have to wait and see what standard will ultimately apply.

Legal Side of Blogging Book CoverDo I think the Supreme Court made the right decision? Yes. Words are clumsy beasts, especially on social media where we deal with words without inflection and non-verbal cues to decipher what the speaker is saying. I don’t want to see people punished for being inarticulate when exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. We need to examine the statement in the context in which it was made when determining whether a statement violates a criminal law.

As always, think before you post. Don’t use this decision as a license to post whatever you want online. You can face serious repercussions criminally, civilly, and socially for what you post on the internet. If you want to read more about this situation, I highly recommend a post written by my fellow legal eagle, Mitch Jackson. If you’re looking for a resource about internet and social media law, please check out my book The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed.

If you want to chat more about free speech and the internet, please contact me directly or connect with me on social media via TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

What’s Up with the Cactus-Cams in Paradise Valley?

Four Peaks Seen Through Cactus Goal Posts by Alan Levine from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Four Peaks Seen Through Cactus Goal Posts by Alan Levine from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

If you’re at an intersection in Paradise Valley and you see a saguaro cactus that looks fake, it probably is.

Paradise Valley recently installed three fake cacti that contain cameras that will be snapping photos of every license plate that goes by. Ken Burke, Paradise Valley’s City Manager said the images will be compared against the “hot list” which includes cars that are reported stolen or part in Amber Alerts. The city said the images that are not connect to any investigations will be destroyed after 180 days.

I’m a bit skeptical of this reasoning for the cameras. According to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, vehicle thefts have been steadily declining in recent years. And according to the official Amber Alert website, there was only 1 Amber Alert in Arizona in 2011, the most recent year for which a report was released. I wonder if they installed them to search for cars that are related to crimes or people with warrants.

And what about privacy? The law has firmly established that you have no expectation of privacy in anything you do in public, including where you go in your car. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the police need a warrant to put a GPS on your vehicle. Snapping your photo every time you drive through a particular intersection isn’t as extreme as tracking your every move, but it could be used to track patterns of behavior.

On its face, this looks like a waste of time and money, but I would be curious to hear an update about these cameras in six months. I would want to know how many crimes they’ve helped solve and if they’re being used for additional tasks.

Privacy issues aren’t going away any time soon. If you want to chat more about this topic, please contact me directly or connect with me on social media via TwitterFacebookYouTube, or LinkedIn.

Exciting News: I Joined Venjuris!

My Business Card for VenJuris!

My Business Card for VenJuris!

A few months ago I made the important decision to join a law firm in Phoenix called Venjuris. The firm used to be Venable Campillo Logan and Meaney but they recently rebranded. I’m excited to combine forces with them. I’ve been getting settled in to my new office during the last two weeks and getting hooked into their computer file and billing system. I’ll be seeing clients again starting next week. Check out my new bio – I’m blonde!

Will the Type of Work I Do Change?
Not really. I will continue to work on copyright and trademark matters; website terms of service; business formations; contract negotiation, drafting, and review; and offer consultations for clients who need help with related to business, intellectual property, social media, and flash mob law issues.

What do my New Colleagues Do?
Venjuris is mostly an intellectual property firm. They do patents, copyrights, trademarks, and licensing. We also have an attorney who does intellectual property litigation. They also do a lot of international intellectual property work. They’re all awesome people. (I wouldn’t have joined the firm if they weren’t.)

What will happen to Carter Law Firm?
Nothing! I will continue to do professional speaking and writing under Carter Law Firm, but all new client matters will be handled under Venjuris. I’ll continue to write blog posts and make videos for Carter Law Firm on at least a weekly basis and I’m putting more energy into public speaking. I have gigs lined up for San Francisco, Las Vegas, and London in the first half of this year and, of course, I’m doing The Undeniable Tour starting in March.

I will be revamping this website to shift the focus to speaking, writing, blogging, and vlogging during the next few weeks (maybe months). But in terms of what I do and how I do it, not much will change.

Where’s my New Office?
1938 East Osborn Road, Phoenix, AZ 85016

Will Rosie Still Come to Work with Me?
Yes. For now, she’s allowed in the office one day a week. Hopefully my colleagues will see that she’s not a distraction and actually helps me work better and will let her come more often.

Want to See my New Office? I made a Video!

How can you Contact Me?
If you’re interested in hiring me for legal work, contact me at rcarter@venjuris.com.
If you’re interested in hiring me to write an article or post for you or speak at your event, contact me at ruth@carterlawaz.com.

Email is usually the fastest way to reach me.
Of course, you can always connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Arizona Drone Law Basics

Drone and Mood by Don McCullough from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Drone and Mood by Don McCullough from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

There has been a lot of controversy and questions around unmanned aerial vehicles – aka drones. According to Amazon, you can get one for under $100 and they look really cool. If you equip a drone with a camera, the potential footage is amazing. Improv Everywhere used one this year to shoot part of Black Tie Beach 2014. Apparently there’s a way to attach a beacon to yourself and have your drone follow you, which could make for amazing footage if you’re involved in a hobby like surfing or rock climbing.

I’ve been getting questions about the legalities of having a drone in Arizona. So I did some research and here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Arizona does not have any drone-specific laws at this time. You can legally fly a drone, with or without a camera, Arizona; however, there are some guidelines about that. You have to keep it under 400 feet and you can’t fly it within five miles of an airport without permission.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibits the use the drones for commercial purposes. That means you can’t make money from your drone. You can’t sell services that include using a drone – like a video production company or a realtor who wants to use a drone to shoot footage of properties that are for sale. It also means you can’t run ads on the videos you shoot with your drone and post on YouTube. I have friend at Fox 10 Phoenix and he said the station has a drone but they don’t use it because they make money by sharing videos of newsworthy stories.

If you injure a person or their property with your drone, you will be responsible for paying for the damages. This is same rule that applies if you’re playing catching with a friend and you accidentally hit your neighbor with your ball or throw it through their living room window.

There have been discussions about whether the City of Phoenix will create city ordinances around drones. I think drones should be dealt with at the state level, not the city, especially a metropolitan area like Phoenix where there’s not space between where one city end and the next begins.

One of the challenges that I expect will emerge related to drones is related to the fact that it’s not always easy to tell who is operating a particular drone. Unlike remote-control aircrafts, you don’t need line of sight to operate a drone. If someone violates the FAA rules or any law with a drone, it may be difficult to identify the operator.

This is an emerging area of law that I will keep an eye on. The FAA’s rules regarding hobbyists’ use of drones are expected to be released in 2015. You can learn more about the FAA’s guidelines for drones here.

Fellow Phoenix attorney and overall nice guy James Arrowood is also following developments in drone law. He did a fantastic interview on PBS about this topic recently.

If you want to chat more about this topic, feel free to connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me. You can also subscribe to the Carter Law Firm newsletter.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

I’m Doing a Google Hangout On Air at ABA TechShow 2014

Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers for blog postI’m excited to announce that I’ll be doing a Meet the Author talk via Google Hangout On Air at the ABA TechShow 2014. I’ll be talking about my new book, The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers.

My talk will be on Friday, March 28th. It officially starts at 8:15 a.m. Pacific Time (10:15 a.m. Central Time) and will last for 45 minutes.  (We’ll be on starting at 8:00 a.m. making sure everything is ready to go.)

Because I’m doing my presentation via Google Hangout, anyone can attend – even if you’re not attending the conference. Here’s the link for the event. I hope you can join us!

I’m usually asked to do a lecture when I speak at events, but this time I want to talk about what you want to talk about and answer your questions. There will be a button on the Hangout where you can ask a question or you can tweet questions at me using the hashtags #RuthBook and #ABATechShow. (Feel free to tweet questions in advance too!)

If you are attending TechShow, my book is available at the ABA bookstore booth in the exhibit hall. I’ve heard all books are on sale for 15% off and your shwag bag has a coupon for additional savings.

This will be my first time doing a presentation at a conference remotely and my first experience leading a Google Hangout On Air. I look forward to chatting with everyone at TechShow any everyone else who will be watching from sunny Phoenix.

If you’re looking for other ways to connect with me, you can do so  on TwitterFacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me. You can also subscribe to the Carter Law Firm newsletter.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

Book Special for Captain Kirk’s Future Birthday

Dave Checking out the Perseid Meteor Shower at 10,000 Feet by Dave Dugdale from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Dave Checking out the Perseid Meteor Shower at 10,000 Feet by Dave Dugdale from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

For anyone who hasn’t seen my YouTube channel, I’m a geek. In particular, I’m a great big Trekkie. I love the show and the movies. I have a uniform and I wear it at conventions (and whenever I want). And I try to do something special every year in honor of the future birthdate of Captain Kirk (March 22, 2233).

Legal Side of Blogging Book CoverEarlier this year, I enrolled my ebook – The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed – in KDP Select on Amazon. This is a program that’s available to people who only publish their work on Amazon. One of the perks is it lets you run a promotion on your book. I’ve never run a special on my book before so I thought I’d give it a whirl and see how it goes.

I had to make the arrangement weeks in advance so I decided to run my book special in honor of Captain Kirk’s future birthday. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to get your hands on this book, here it is – from March 17th until the 23rd, my book will be on sale for $1.99, down from its usual $3.99. If you want a copy for yourself or if you want to gift a copy to the blogger friend in your life, now is the time to do it.

This book covers common questions related to blogging including copyright, trademark, privacy, and defamation. It’s written in an easy-to-understand style expressly for serious bloggers with as many direct answers as possible (which is hard to get out of a lawyer). All of these lessons apply equally to other social media platforms so it’s a must-read for anyone involved in blogging, content creation, or online marketing.

I hope you enjoy it!  If you want to chat more about the legalities of blogging, you can connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me. You can also subscribe to the Carter Law Firm newsletter.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

New Book – The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers

The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers

The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers

Having a blog is still awesome. Getting in trouble because of your block isn’t. When you’re lawyer, staying out of trouble when you have a blog is a little more complicated.

I became interested in the legalities of blogging when I started my personal blog, The Undeniable Ruth, in 2010. I have a lot of friends who are outspoken online and I wanted to know how far we could push the envelope before one of us crossed the line. That became a blog series, which inspired a paper for my Cyberspace Law class, and became the basis of my first book, The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. I tried to write as a blogger for other bloggers – in English instead of legalese. I tried to give as many straight answers as possible in an arena where the law hasn’t kept up with technology.

When I signed on to write The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers, I wanted to address all the common legal questions any blogger would have and also address some issues that are specific to the legal profession.  I added sections about the type of disclaimer every legal blogger should have on their site and under what circumstances lawyers can blog about their own cases. Lawyers also have to be mindful of their state’s ethical rules about lawyer advertising. This shouldn’t be that big of an issue because if your blog constitute advertising, you’re probably doing it wrong.  The book also includes practical advice on how to respond to people who leave comments on your site that ask for legal advice – despite the fact that your disclaimer clearly states that anyone in that situation should schedule a consult with a lawyer in their community.

I also added three appendices that list the state and federal laws that apply to blogging, online resources related to the legalities of blogging, and a list of recommended books about blogging and social media marketing.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the afterward written by anonymous legal blogger The Namby Pamby – a man who has personally experience blogging about his cases with the added burden of keeping his identity a secret. His blog is hilarious, and I loved hearing his take on my work.

After the book came out, I had the pleasure of talking about the book on the JD Blogger Podcast. Host John Skiba said that he liked the book can be used as a resource for lawyers with cases that are related to the internet because it’s filled with citations to the applicable cases and laws.

If you want your own copy, The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers is available through the American Bar Association.

If you want to chat more about the legalities of blogging, you can connect with me on TwitterFacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me. You can also subscribe to the Carter Law Firm newsletter.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

Arizona’s Latest Anti-LGBT Attack: HB 2481

rainbow flag : banner, harvey milk plaza, castro, san francisco (2012) by torbakhopper from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

rainbow flag : banner, harvey milk plaza, castro, san francisco (2012) by torbakhopper from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

There was much rejoicing last week when Governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062. This bill would have allowed anyone to refuse to do business with a patron based on their religious beliefs. The ultra conservatives said they were trying to protect their freedom of religion but most of us saw it for the bigoted attack against the LGBT community that it was. The outcry from the business community was fast and severe which is why I think this bill was shut down.

But now the Arizona legislature is at it again! Now they’re trying to pass a law (HB 2481) that would allow clergy members and justices of the peace to refuse to perform marriages if it violates their “sincerely held” religious beliefs. This is obviously a bill that is aimed at allowing officiants to legally refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

This bill is fucked up on so many levels. Let’s start with the fact that we have the separation of church and state. To be legally married, you need a valid marriage license and a marriage ceremony performed by a legal officiant. If you get married in the church without a license, that’s outside the realm of state-recognized marriages and has nothing to do with this bill.

A member of the clergy can already refuse to marry a couple in their church, synagogue, temple, etc. if the relationship violates the religion. And there are plenty of religions and clergy members that say homosexuality is wrong. Besides, why would you want to get married by someone who doesn’t approve of your relationship? Logically speaking, this situation will rarely happen and if it does, the clergy already have a valid reason to decline. We don’t need a law about this.

Remember same-sex marriage is not legal in Arizona so no state official can perform a legal same-sex ceremony anyway.  This law is nothing but a pre-emptive strike against the expectation that same-sex marriage will be legal in Arizona some day and there may be judges and justices of the peace who are asked to perform legal (non-religious) marriage ceremonies that they disagree with. I’m sure they think there are straight couples who go to City Hall to get married where they disagree with what the couple is doing, but they suck it up and do their job.

When a judge or justice of the peace is asked to officiate these marriages, they are a state actor, not a clergy member. If they are uncomfortable with this part of their job, they should suck it up or quit.

And in case you didn’t know, Arizona allows people who are ordained online to perform legal marriages so you can have the friend of your choosing perform your ceremony.

Please contact your representative and tell them to vote No on HB 2481. We’ve already told our legislature once that we don’t want them to legalize discrimination. Let’s hope they get the message this time and stop trying to pass discriminatory legislation. And remember the names of the elected officials who are voting in favor of these bigoted laws so you know who not to vote for when they’re up for re-election.