Filmmakers, YouTubers, and other content creators received a big win recently when a D.C. Federal Judge ruled that the permit and fee requirements applying to commercial filming are unconstitutional. Still photography rules remain unchanged, although they weren't as restrictive as the filming rules.
Previously, under 54 USC 100905, 43 CFR Part 5, and 36 CFR Part 5, the National Park Service required a permit and a fee to film commercially on its land. In December 2019, independent director Gordon Price sued the U.S. Attorney General (then William Barr) and officials from the Department of the Interior and National Park Service. Price challenged that the rule was unconstitutional after two National Park Service officers issued Price a citation in late 2018 for filming without a permit in public areas of the Yorktown Battlefield in Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia.
Previously, the statute required a permit for commercial filmmaking but did not require one for non-commercial filmmaking. Price argued that this was a violation of his first amendment rights.
On January 21, 2021, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly agreed, stating:
Kollar-Kotelly also noted in her ruling that:
The National Park Service has updated their website about this matter, stating:
Following the recent court decision, the National Park Service will not be implementing or enforcing the commercial filming portions of 43 CFR Part 5 until further notice, including accepting applications, issuing permits, enforcing the terms and conditions of permits, issuing citations related to permits, or collecting cost recovery and location fees for commercial filming activities."
Obviously, if you're planning a big shoot with lots of equipment and actors or models, you'll want to contact the National Park Service. This means that you no longer have to have a permit if you want to shoot stock video footage, b-roll, or create YouTube videos (that you monetize) in the National Parks.
As for still photography, the National Park Service website also states:
1. the activity takes place at location(s) where or when members of the public are generally not allowed; or
2. the activity uses model(s), sets(s), or prop(s) that are not a part of the location's natural or cultural resources or administrative facilities; or
3. a park would incur additional administrative costs to monitor the activity."