Change to the Law
As of Friday (April 1, 2011), the following is now part of the Open Meetings Law [Public Officers Law, Article 7, Section 103, subdivision (d)]:
“1. Any meeting of a public body that is open to the public shall be open to being photographed, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise recorded and/or transmitted by audio or video means. As used herein the term “broadcast” shall also include the transmission of signals by cable.
2. A public body may adopt rules, consistent with recommendations from the committee on open government, reasonably governing the location of equipment and personnel used to photograph, broadcast, webcast, or otherwise record a meeting so as to conduct its proceedings in an orderly manner. Such rules shall be conspicuously posted during meetings and written copies shall be provided upon request to those in attendance.”
What does this mean for citizens?
This means that government officials has to allow a member of the public to record a public meeting for a webcast, TV show, etc. (as long as the citizen is following the rules setup by the government body for doing so). If someone wants to video the meeting (or parts of it), they should be able to do so easily and they now have the backing of the NY State Law.
Possible Implications for Officials
If an official wanted to keep citizen activists, reporters, and other members of the public from recording a meeting, they really can’t (so long as the citizen follows the rules).
Someone can hypothetically video the whole meeting and only post snippets of it online and the government body can’t do anything to stop the recording (if the person is following the rules).
Wouldn’t it just be better for governments to record the meetings themselves and host the video on their website? That way, if someone does take an official out of context in a video (or audio) collage, there is easily accessible proof to show the public what really happened. Otherwise, officials are left at the mercy of the person with the recording.
*This should not be taken as legal advice. Talk with a lawyer about this.