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A lawsuit over Wyoming's controversial "data trespass" law was settled in August without really resolving any of the important Constitutional issues behind it.
Wyoming in 2015 passed a "data trespass" law making it illegal to gather data on pollution violations on "private open land." Journalism and environmental groups criticized the law as an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of the press under the First Amendment. A journalist taking a photo or water sample from a public road or bridge over a stream could be in violation.
One of the biggest problems with the law was what was meant under the loose term "private open land." The settlement, along with court rulings in the case, may not have cleared that up much. Nor did they clear up the underlying First Amendment issue.
Both sides claimed victory in the settlement — a group of ranchers and an alliance of environmentalists led by the Western Watersheds Project. Environmentalists paid no damages and had the suit against them dropped. Ranchers claimed the law had been clarified.
- "Ranchers, Environmental Group Settle Trespass Lawsuit," Billings Gazette, September 5, 2016, by Arno Rosenfeld.
- "Wyoming Trespass Lawsuit Dropped!" Western Watersheds Project, August 19, 2016.
- "No Punitive Damages Against Western Watersheds," WyoFile, February 19, 2016, by Angus M. Thuermer Jr.
- Previous Articles: WatchDogs of January 6, 2016 and May 20, 2015.