The Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia has joined with five other courts in upholding our right to film the police. It overturned the lower court which had ruled the act of filming police is not “sufficiently expressive” to fall under the First Amendment. But the Third Circuit ruled that the public has a First Amendment right to access the information about police provided by the filming.
Every Circuit Court of Appeals to address this issue (First, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh) has held that there is a First Amendment right to record police activity in public.... Today we join this growing consensus. Simply put, the First Amendment protects the act of photographing, filming, or otherwise recording police officers conducting their official duties in public... The First Amendment protects actual photos, videos, and recordings, see Brown v. Entm’t Merchants Ass’n, 564 U.S. 786, 790 (2011), and for this protection to have meaning the Amendment must also protect the act of creating that material... Access to information regarding public police activity is particularly important because it leads to citizen discourse on public issues, “the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to special protection."
To record what there is the right for the eye to see or the ear to hear corroborates or lays aside subjective impressions for objective facts. Hence to record is to see and hear more accurately. Recordings also facilitate discussion because of the ease in which they can be widely distributed via different forms of media. Accordingly, recording police activity in public falls squarely within the First Amendment right of access to information. As no doubt the press has this right, so does the public.