TLR Opposes HB 912 (the Drone Bill)
FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION—April 3, 2014
Contact: Lucy Nashed
There are a number of problems with HB 912. These are just a few:
It is expansive. It imposes criminal and civil liability for the “capturing” (a term undefined in the bill) of “sound waves, thermal, infrared, ultraviolet, visible light, or other electromagnetic waves, odor, or other conditions existing on or about real property or an individual located on that property.” It covers not only “an unmanned vehicle” (it does not say “unmanned flying vehicle”), but also “aircraft” (it does not say “unmanned aircraft”).
It may hinder law enforcement: The law enforcement defenses in the bill are narrow and leave out a range of legitimate law enforcement surveillance activity.
It does not require actual harm to a claimant: A person may be liable for criminal and civil penalties even if the person did no physical or economic harm to the claimant.
Innocent conduct does not matter: A person may be liable for criminal and civil penalties even if the person did not intend to capture an image (or sound waves or odors, etc.), but did so only accidentally or incidentally to otherwise lawful conduct.
Place of “capture” does not matter: A person may be liable for criminal and civil penalties even if the person captured an image, odor, etc. outside of Texas, or outside of America.
It exposes numerous innocent actors to criminal and civil penalties: Penalties are not only on the person who captures an image, odor, etc., but anyone who transmits or distributes that captured item. So a person who uses a drone to capture an image of Congress Avenue has liability, and so does every person who forwards that image to others, even if the person has no idea the image was captured illegally.
The civil damages are essentially limitless, encompass numerous innocent actors, and are an invitation to entrepreneurial lawyers: Assume an “unmanned vehicle,” or an “aircraft” takes a photo of Congress Avenue, showing buildings on either side of the street from Cesar Chavez to the Capitol. Under the bill, these images have been “captured.” As we all know, these images may be repeatedly transmitted by numerous people if posted on the internet. The bill imposes a $1,000 civil penalty “for each image of the plaintiff or the real property owned or legally occupied by the plaintiff that is captured, possessed, disclosed, displayed, distributed, or otherwise used …” It is difficult to comprehend the number of plaintiffs, the number of defendants, and the amount of damages imposed by this bill in the situation described.
Legislative Advertising Paid for by Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Richard J. Trabulsi, Jr.
919 Congress Suite 455 Austin, Texas 78701