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FAA Says Ad-Bearing YouTube Drone Videos Constitute "Commercial Use" 239

schwit1 writes If you fly a drone and post footage on YouTube, you could end up with a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration. Earlier this week, the agency sent a legal notice to Jayson Hanes, a Tampa-based drone hobbyist who has been posting drone-shot videos online for roughly the last year. The FAA said that, because there are ads on YouTube, Hanes's flights constituted a commercial use of the technology subject to stricter regulations and enforcement action from the agency. It said that if he did not stop flying 'commercially,' he could be subject to fines or sanctions.
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FAA Says Ad-Bearing YouTube Drone Videos Constitute "Commercial Use"

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  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @08:20PM (#49253905) Journal

    Can someone point out to me which part of the 1st Amendment it is in?

    • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @08:34PM (#49253999)
      I think you want to refer to the Commerce Clause. And, the action is not agains "speech" per se, but against the commercial use of drones. The FAA won't bother him about advertising revenue from non-drone videos, or about using drones as a hobby. It's when he combines the two that it becomes a commercial activity (and yes, earning advertising revenue via Youtube is Interstate Commerce).
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Then the FAA should take it up with Google, not the guy uploading the footage. It is not commercial to him, or is he using it for advertising his own business?

        • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @08:52PM (#49254085)
          The guy should post the video on his own, non-commercial web site.

          Once you start arguing that it's not the operator making money, you open a slippery slope where one person makes money on videos (making it commercial) which a friend made using a drone. Then, they reverse roles.

          The simple fact is, money is being made from the video, which makes it commerce. Even if "the guy" didn't receive any payment, he is clearly participating in Interstate Commerce, which is subject to regulation.
          • without a license? (pronounced "lee sons" - see "The Pink Panther - Peter Sellers" "Do you have a lee sons for your moon kay?" "Show me the lee sons!"

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            So, let's say the guy puts "drone building and piloting" down on his resume under the hobby section.

            Now he gets a job. He is funding the website with his own money. He's now getting paid due to his abilities and qualities listed on his resume.

            Commercial Use?

            I'm sorry, putting pictures up on facebook who makes money from the ads on the pages doesn't make my wedding a "commercial use" of a camera, even if I pay a camera man to take them.

            When a definition is so broad as to mean almost anything then it is mea

            • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @02:53AM (#49255079) Journal

              If he is flying the drone as part of his job, yes it is commercial.

              As for youtube, some accounts receive a portion of the ad revenue based on the volume of hits. It's possible that his account has enough hits that he is getting revenue from posting drone videos online.

              However, I just read the letter and do not see where it mentioned adds. It mentioned they receive a complaint about videos posted to youtube and after looking at them, the "complaint" does appear valid, then drops a list of a lot of rules concerning commercial and hobby use.

              I did watch a couple of the videos and they seem well produced and of decent quality but they also were of events and locations which may give the impression they may have been produced for commercial reasons (eg, promoting the water tribe event or the closed down pier building, a fleet maintinence facility are a couple I noticed that might be construed as possibly being commercial in nature as they could be for hire scenarios without actually asking to find out) .

            • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @07:15AM (#49255463) Journal

              FTA : "Hanes told me that his videos are technically "monetized" on YouTube"

              So he has told YouTube to generate revenue for him from his videos, which is very different from Google generating revenue for themselves from their own platform. Facebook wont give you money for posting pictures.

              So technically he is using his drone sourced footage commercially.

          • As the content provider you can turn the ads off, I think that would cover it. Settings -> Channel -> Advanced -> Uncheck "Allow advertisements to be displayed alongside my videos". Obviously you also must also not have enabled monetization.
            • by Cederic ( 9623 )

              Unless the media industry notice 20 seconds of background noise that matches one of their algorithms, then they'll claim copyright and add ads.

              (Major issue for my YouTube channel as all my videos are footage of people dancing, and that tends to involve music)

          • So you're engaging in commercial activity right now, and I am too? We're both posting on Slashdot, after all.

            >Once you start arguing that it's not the operator making money, you open a slippery slope

            The whole "standard" you've invented out of whole cloth here? Yeah. Not part of the commerce clause. This IS the exact argument: who makes the money. If it could be anyone in the world tangentially related to the person providing the content, then your viewing a billboard while driving would be interstate com

        • No. This guy checked the "Monetize my video" box when he uploaded his videos, and his domain redirects to his YouTube channel. He is trying top make money off these videos.
        • Google's not flying the drones, so they don't fall under the FAA's jurisdiction.

          Unfortunately the ruling makes perfect sense. That doesn't mean the rules themselves make perfect sense, but I'd imagine the pressure would be against the FAA increasing the number of things that fall under "non-commercial therefore more liberally regulated" use. And it's hard to come up with a better set of rules that wouldn't have loopholes so large you could fly a 747 loaded with freight through.

        • The guy has flagged his videos as monetized and earn advertising money from views.

          If the videos were NOT monetized he would have a much better case...

          From article:
          "Hanes told me that his videos are technically "monetized" on YouTube but that he has never received a payment from Google and the revenue he's technically earned from Google’s ads is less than a dollar."

          Having low views and not making much from it is hardly a defense.

          As much as I hate to say it, he is monetizing his drone flights and is sor

      • they really don't like the drones, do they?
      • The fact that the FAA is attempting to define commercial activity with a drone is exactly the problem.

    • That would be the freedom of assembly portion. You don't lose your 1st amendment rights because of who you associate with.

    • That commercial corporations are people has been established in the protection of the least helpless among us...

      I altruistically believe this protection ought to extend to the non-recipient of youtube's ad dollars, but then I'm a giver.

      A multi-faceted amendment if there ever was one, AFAIC, the 1st gave us a right that was nearly as important as the freedom of speech, religion, and press: the separation of church and state.

  • don't go away mad. just go away.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @08:28PM (#49253963) Homepage Journal
    Apparently the FAA isn't browisng with the right browser plugins.
  • by duck_rifted ( 3480715 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @08:35PM (#49254007)
    The commercial use regulations are OBVIOUSLY meant to keep people from flying passengers or freight when they don't know what they're doing. Uploading a video to youtube from a drone does not endanger the public in any way so long as it's not being used to stalk somebody or invade their privacy. Obviously, footage from public spaces taken too high to make out individuals does neither of those things.

    So, here's the point of the subject line: If we're going to apply laws and regulations to the utmost literal interpretation without any kind of reason or sensibility, then why don't we fire the FAA and replace them with robots? The only benefit to having actual humans perform these duties is that they can apply some measure of human common sense, whereas software would mechanically interpret everything exactly as programmed with no regard for the details.
    • by ghjm ( 8918 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @11:38PM (#49254613) Homepage

      There are a number of Youtube videos of people flying hobby drones well above 10,000 feet. Above 10,000, several safety measures go out of effect - airline passengers can remove their seat belts, airliners can exceed 250 knots, etc - so a hobby drone at 10,001 feet is much more dangerous than a drone at 9,999. Above 18,000, all flights must be conducted under IFR and pilots are no longer required to see and avoid - so they stop looking out the window and get busy with other tasks. So a hobby drone at 18,001 feet is yet more dangerous still, as well as being a whole new level of illegal.

      You can bet your bottom dollar that hobby drone operators know none of this.

      The FAA, for very good common-sense safety reasons, wants like hell to put a stop to this. However, Congress legislated away the FAA's power to actually regulate or provide standards for hobby drones. The FAA can't say "don't fly them above 10,000 feet" because they are now prohibited by the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 from *any* rulemaking regarding model aircraft. And according to the Act, the model aircraft can be *up to 55 pounds* - and it seems like FAA concepts like "controlled airspace" don't apply. The only requirement is that if you are going to fly within 5 miles of an airport, the operator has to provide prior notice - *not ask permission* - from the airport's air traffic control.

      During the period 1958-2012, the FAA was solely responsible for aviation safety and airspace regulation, and maintained a profoundly excellent safety record. From 2012, there are now two agencies responsible for air safety - the FAA for manned aircraft, and vaguely-defined "community-based set of safety guidelines" for recreational drones in the same airspace. Common sense says that this can't, and won't, work - so basically, Congress has decided that we will wait until a drone takes down an airliner, then over-react and probably outlaw all hobby drones everywhere. And probably blame the FAA.

      This is what passes for policy-making in the US today. It's really very sad.

  • Well, duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by P1h3r1e3d13 ( 1158845 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @08:37PM (#49254015)
    If Haynes has monetized his channel, then any filming he does for it is commercial filming. YouTube videos are a full-time job for some people.
    If he owned a plane, took a camera on it, filmed stuff from it, and got money when people watched the film, that would be commercial flying. This is no different.
    • If Haynes has monetized his channel, then any filming he does for it is commercial filming.

      Not so fast. The IRS has something to say about this topic [], since they draw a distinction between for-profit businesses and hobbies that happen to make a profit. Just because his videos are theoretically monetized (he has yet to actually receive any money), doesn't mean that they are a commercial venture. Given that he's operating at a loss (e.g. equipment, time, and travel costs), and that he doesn't seem to have any plans to turn things around or live off the $0 he's made so far, it's more likely that his

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @08:43PM (#49254049)

    The FAA's job is to regulate flying objects. it has no business fiddling with advertising. Time to cut its budget until it stays within its statutory boundaries.

    • I am very dubious about how the FAA is dealing with this, but your suggestion is beyond stupid. You are advocating shutting down the mechanisms that make aviation possible. Do you think that shutting down national/international air traffic control is a good idea? Do you think that suspending oversight on aircraft maintenance will keep planes flying safely?

      How stupid are you? Grow up. Your opinion is senseless. Do yourself, and everyone else here a favor and think before you post again. That is, if you can

      • You are advocating shutting down the mechanisms that make aviation possible.


    • The FAA isn't 'fiddling with advertising'. They are fiddling with the definition of 'commercial'. The fact that the commerce in question is advertising is only peripheral. If the guy was delivering Girl Scout cookies, they would still be having kittens about it.

      The FCC is doing the classic straight and narrow interpretation of a law when some common sense would have just had the committee that figured this one out just have a couple more donuts and call it a day.

      Then there is the commercial and legal rel

    • Time for drone manufacturers to hire attorneys and argue the case in court.

      • The drone manufacturers have only a peripheral interest. Google has more to lose (or gain). There are thousands of YouTube videos of drones.

        (And what is with Slashdot these days? Are they running it on someone's cell phone?)

    • I like the way you think.

  • by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @09:05PM (#49254121) Homepage

    Can we just call it what it is? It's a "toy helicopter", not a "drone". That helps get the conversation on the right track.

    • Can we just call it what it is? It's a "toy helicopter", not a "drone". That helps get the conversation on the right track.

      No it doesn't. That just sidetracks the conversation completely and leads into another unrelated thread in which someone points out that "drone" is a colloquial superset of UAVs that includes "toy helicopter," the aircraft in this article, and whatever more limited definition you have in your head. It's pointless, non-contributory pedantry.

      • We had toy helicopters for years before we had drones. There's a huge difference as "drones" fly autonomously or semi-autonomously. If you've ever watched liveleak videos of drone use you'll note the thing flies itself, the operator works on targeting and killing people. The interface is extremely high level. The operator marks an area as the target and the software alters the flight path and camera angle to make that area available for attack.

        A toy helicopter, on the other hand, is directly flown by th

    • Any unmanned aircraft is a drone - even the Cox 049 powered plane on a string.
    • Yeah...

      as someone who actually flies RC Helicopters... they're not toys. They can be dangerous. I fly things large enough that if an untrained person flew, they could quite literally kill someone with it.

      Multi-rotors might not have the same amount of force as a larger sized rc helicopter but they can still inflict some serious damage if someone doesn't really know what they're doing with it. Nowadays all the multi-rotors are being sold with gps systems and 'rescue' modes to make it easier for someone to fly

      • There's a video on liveleak of someone being *killed* by one of those. I'm very familiar with them. See my other screed above explaining why the FAA is pushing the "drone" language.

  • by ichthus ( 72442 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @09:10PM (#49254149) Homepage
    You know what? Prove that the video was shot within the confines of US airspace. Recognizable dandmarks are present, you say? Well, then prove that it's not a computer rendering and is, in fact, a drone-shot video.

    Overbearing motherfuckers.
  • Not a drone! (Score:4, Informative)

    by norite ( 552330 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @09:15PM (#49254185) Journal

    Um, this craft is NOT a drone, not by a long chalk. A drone is an autonomous vehicle, capable of taking off, flying a pre-programmed route and landing. This is always under human copntrol at all times so it's just a radio controlled aircraft.


    • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

      wrong. According to the ICAO definition, a drone refers to ANY unmanned aerial vehicle. The FAA does NOT use the term "drone", it prefers "Unmanned Aircraft".

    • Regardless of the fact that all common definitions disagree with you, the DJI Phantom 2 shown in the video is actually capable of what you describe as a drone.

      Also Phantoms are rarely flown under direct human control. The vast majority of them are flown in an autonomous GPS holding mode where altitude and location are locked and maintained by a computer and a human simply sends a direction override, and they all switch to fully autonomous mode if the connection to the remote is lost.

      Every single one of the

  • What if you take photos of you flying a drone and a magazine buys the right to use your photos in their magazine, does that constitute commercial use?

    If someone makes a painting of you flying a drone and then you sell the painting, does that constitute commercial use?

    Both examples above would constitute commercial use of technology according to the FAA's definition of it since you get a monetary gain from flying your drone.

    Which leads me to ask this: Isn't there model flying competitions where you can win p

  • Too many of these agencies are out of control. Congress needs to go through them one at a time and cut them back to what is useful.

    The "drones" which are just remote controlled helicopters in most cases, are no threat to aircraft unless they're flying very high or near airports.

    The FAA only exists to make air travel safe.

    If a "drone" isn't doing anything that could endanger commercial or military airplanes... then the FAA has no business saying anything about it one way or the other.

  • OK so make sure there are no identifying marks on your drone and wear a mask and you just filmed someone else's drone and put it on your site. Oops there i go making sense again.
  • That is all
  • When drones are outlawed, only outlaws will have drones.

    The govt is afraid of drones in the public hands - it's out of their control.

    Then there was the guy who would take drone footage of real-estate for free, then charge a whopping fee for editing.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Yes moving images free on a vast "public commons" that people can see, share, comment on, link to and ask questions about.
      The hi res look down ability is now in the public hands to share and talk about.
      Sites can now be seen from above, shared and commented on.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Friday March 13, 2015 @11:59PM (#49254697) Homepage Journal

    The FAAâ(TM)s goal is to promote voluntary compliance by educating individual UAS operators about how they can operate safely under current regulations and laws,â the agency said. âoeThe FAAâ(TM)s guidance calls for inspectors to notify someone with a letter and then follow up. The guidance does not include language about advertising. The FAA will look into the matter. []

  • by cciRRus ( 889392 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @01:08AM (#49254883)
    Read it here [].
  • by Tugrik ( 158279 ) <tugrik AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday March 14, 2015 @03:27AM (#49255141)

    I've got a drone video (shot at BurningMan before the anti-drone restrictions) that has over 700,000 views. Being it's from BurningMan I did not monetize it. However, I did patch in music I liked and "acknowledged third party content" once YouTube's systems identified it. The copyright owner on the music caused ads to appear. I don't see a cent of it, and the 'monetize' checkbox is turned off on that video.

    Still, I gotta wonder if now I'm going to get an FAA letter too, as they'll see a high-viewer-count "drone video" with ads on it.

    (edit: the link to the vid: [] )

  • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @03:35AM (#49255155)

    There are too many comparisons between a person flying a single drone for recreational use and another person flying a single drone for commercial use. That is not the problem. The real problem is the difference between a few people flying a few drones for a couple of hours a week and a number of companies flying hundreds of drones for many more hours each day of the week. The expected number of accidents for commercial drones is much higher than for recreational drones. The skies can handle a few unregulated drones. Add a few hundred commercial drones to the same space and there will be collisions, crashes and injuries. Had the FAA allowed free use of commercial drones they would be the first agency blamed when someone got hurt.

    Think of the commercial interests who might want to use drones;
    1. Deliveries; food, medications, small package, etc.
    2. News agencies
    3. Paparazzi
    4. Remote tourism
    There are many other commercial uses of drones. The difference between recreational and commercial drone use is numbers. Just look at the issue with paparazzi. Do you really want 30 or 40 drones flown by inexperienced people hovering close to crowds hoping to get a good photograph? Do you really want hundreds of drones delivering packages in urban areas?

    The FAA has yet to work out how to license commercial use so they can control congestion and flight rules. They also need rules to be able to identify the owner of drones when something goes wrong. These problems are being looked into but the solutions are not as simple as some people seem to believe. Some of the simple problems have been worked out but all the issues need to be worked out before large numbers of drones can be licensed.

  • FlightAware (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Deadstick ( 535032 ) on Saturday March 14, 2015 @11:58AM (#49256427)

    If a private pilot makes a flight under Instrument Flight Rules, a track of his flight appears on FlightAware.

    FlightAware displays ads.


"I'll rob that rich person and give it to some poor deserving slob. That will *prove* I'm Robin Hood." -- Daffy Duck, Looney Tunes, _Robin Hood Daffy_