HAWAII ISLAND(KHON2) — There are tons of photos and videos of Mauna Loa; but if you plan to sell any of those images, a permit is required, according to the Hawaii State Film Commissioner.
Thousands are flocking to see the historic eruption of Mauna Loa, commemorating the moment with photos and videos. Most will likely keep those images for themselves. Frame it to hang on a wall; or perhaps, share it on social media.
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But, the Hawaii State Film Commissioner, Donne Dawson, said if a person plans to sell them, it’s considered commercial use and that changes things.
“That would require a film permit,” Dawson said.
“The permits that we issue at the Hawaii Film Office, that we have issued for the last four decades, are really to set up a regulatory parameter around the filming activity,” explained Dawson.
Dawson added that people need to obtain the permit prior to capturing any images. The Hawaii film office usually requires film permit applications be submitted a week before the filming date.
Attorney Julia Brotman, who specializes in intellectual property law, said the permit needs to be issued by the appropriate agency or land owner so people should look at a map and plan ahead.
“It depends. If you’re on state land or county land, it matters. If you’re on Saddle Road, [which is operated by the state] or if you’re at Pohakuloa, that’s federal land. If you’re on the county side, if you’re in the National Park, that’s also federal, so you have to think about where you’re going to be,” Brotman said.
“It’s the law,” she added. “There are penalties if you don’t.”
According to Dawson, the point of the permit is to ensure people have insurance and are filming safely. She said they’ve made the process simple and submissions can be done online 24/7.
“We don’t want the guerrilla-filmmakers to come in here and just do whatever,” Dawson explained. “That’s the thing we’re trying to discourage. Because in those situations, where people just go rogue and don’t secure a proper permit and something does go wrong, the state can still be sued. The necessity for a film permit is to really address any liability issues that could come up in the course of filming activity.”
Brotman said there is a difference between who owns the copyright to the photo or video being taken and the film permit–they are completely unrelated.
“When you’re talking about who actually owns the content, from a copyright perspective, it is the person who takes the photo or who takes the video,” she explained.
Brotman said that a person can own the copyright; and if they don’t have permission to capture that content with a valid film permit, they could be fined.
And, the fines can be steep, depending on the situation.
“They can be cited by a DLNR-DOCARE officer and have to appear in court and have a minimal fine to having to go before the land board and having a substantial, like thousands of dollars, fine,” Dawson said.
According to Dawson, the penalty is more severe if the person abused privileges or if they applied for a permit that was denied and filmed anyway.
Jessica Ferracane, spokesperson for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, said they’ve only declined a handful of permits in the last 12 years. And, they can help photographers find the best locations to shoot.
Helpful resources are available.
“We can recommend really good viewpoints: where to park, how to avoid crowds, when the Nene typically fly out of the crater up to their foraging grounds,” she said. “We have on the ground experience; and we know where the good angles are, where the sun won’t be in your face. Or, if you want it in your face, this is where you go,” she explained.
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Dawson said this does not only pertain to Mauna Loa. The law requires a film permit any time a person films for commercial purposes anywhere in the state. The only place they wouldn’t need a film permit is if they’re on their own private property.