The American Society of Journalists and Authors filed suit Dec. 17 against the state of California to stop a new law from “violating the Constitution and devastating the careers of freelance journalists such as writers and photographers,” the organization said.
Assembly Bill 5, which took effect Jan. 1, caps journalists at 35 pieces of content per year for a company. If journalists exceed that, they must become employees of that company. Journalists who record video instantly lose their ability to work independently, says ASJA. Marketers, grant writers, and graphic designers face no such limit.
“Under the law, a freelancer like me can write 200-plus press releases in a year for a marketing firm, and it’s no problem. But if a newspaper wants me to write a weekly column about local politics, it must put me on staff — a very unlikely prospect — or violate the law. Otherwise I am silenced,” said San Diego freelance writer Randy Dotinga, a board member and former president of ASJA.
The suit was filed in federal court in Los Angeles by ASJA’s pro bono attorneys at Pacific Legal Foundation. ASJA joins the National Press Photographers Association as plaintiffs in the suit.
ASJA says it’s concerned about proposed laws in New York and New Jersey that are inspired by AB 5.