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Own a drone: Fine. But fly a drone with a cam: Year in the clink

Eggheads furious as US state mulls ban on 'peeping-tom' craft

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Vid Anyone in Oregon owning a drone fitted with a camera could be jailed for six months, or a year if it's caught flying, if a new state law is passed. The rules were proposed to tackle, among other things, peeping toms gazing into bedroom windows.

Draft legislation before the Oregon State Senate would, if put into the statute books, make the act of attaching a camera to a flying machine illegal. The punishment is six months in the cooler; flying such a drone would be twice as bad - comparable to drink-driving or carrying a concealed gun.

The bills were proposed anonymously, but local paper The Oregonian identified Senator Floyd Prozanski as the chap trying to ban photo-snapping machines that can hover by windows. Law-abiding drone enthusiasts argued against the draft rules in this video:

When drones were expensive, debate about their deployment was limited to their use by cops and homeland security types, and their use in other vertical markets where an investment had an obvious payoff. But as prices tumble there are questions over whether the general population should be allowed to spy on each other.

Not that use by law enforcement is a given: last week Seattle's police department permanently grounded its drones (both of them) following protests and lobbying from the American Civil Liberties Union. Meanwhile in Nevada, Virginia City was the first to impose a ban on all police use of drones for at least two years while attempting to block gathered video evidence from the courtroom.

The Academy of Model Aeronautics has published a list of states considering drone legislation. And Daily Wireless has an overview comparing drone legislation to other mass surveillance programmes, such as the network of CCTV cameras set to blanket the Seattle coastline next month, as US peeps grow increasingly uncomfortable with being watched all the time.

The draft laws in Oregon are arguably draconian and the community is mobilising against them. But it's worth noting that some of those arguing against the bills say they'd be happy to accept greater regulation, and even licensing, of flying cameras before they get too ubiquitous to police. ®

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