Photo Attorney

Dec 17, 2008

Forest Service Revises Rules Related to Commercial Photography On Ski Slopes

As reported by the Aspen Times, commercial shoots on public lands in a ski area now require a permit from the Forest Service. The increased requirement arose reportedly because of an accident that killed a member of a filming crew.

Jim Stark, a winter sports administrator with the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the Forest Service, admits that the new permit requirement wouldn't have affected that horrible incident. Stark also denies that the permits are an attempt to raise money, noting that the fee for still photography is $110 when it involves 10 or fewer people and $150 when it involves 11 to 30 people. The fee for filming is $150 per day with one to 10 people.

It appears that the Forest Service doesn't understand how that "modest" amount can affect most photographers, struggling to make a living these days. Further, the revised fee structure doesn't appear to be related to safety because no permit is required for "skiers or riders simply taking pictures [or] footage for their personal use."

Granted, if the photography activities obstruct the normal operations of the ski resort, then the photographer should be charged for efforts to keep the activity safe. But if the Forest Service can't tell the difference between a photographer taking photographs to be licensed for commercial purposes from the photographer taking vacation snapshots, then the Forest Service shouldn't require a permit from the former one or should require one for both. Moreover, what benefits will the Forest Service provide in exchange for the additional fee? In sum, this appears to be another invalid and unjustified restriction on photography.