Taking Liberties: Bigfoot Spotted, Needs Permit

The video shows a large animal-like figure walking upright on a ridge on the top of Mount Monadnock, one of New Hampshire’s most popular hiking attractions.

A group of tourists nearby are then interviewed.

“What is it that you saw?” a man’s voice off-camera asks.

“I saw a big hairy man-like creature on the top of Mount Monadnock,” says a teenage boy, clearly having fun with the surreal scene.

“Were you afraid?” another tourist is asked. “I was horribly afraid,” is the answer.

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    No, it’s not the second coming of Bigfoot, it’s just performance artist Jonathan Doyle in his Yeti suit, who then acted as off-camera interviewer moments later.

    “This is my art,” he explained to a reporter recently. “This is what I do for fun. It’s about having fun and then posting it on YouTube.

    It’s the YouTube posting that got Doyle kicked off Mount Monadnock. Park Rangers caught the video on the Internet and when Doyle came back to shoot a sequel, the rangers told him no, claiming Doyle was a “film crew,” and needed a “film permit.”

    Doyle has now hooked up with New Hampshire’s American Civil Liberties Union and is suing the Rangers for violating his right to “free speech.”

    “I am not a film crew,” said Doyle. “I am just a guy shooting a YouTube video like millions of other Americans.”

    For years, the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation has required film permits for various commercial and film projects that require the scenic beauty of the mountain as a backdrop.

    The fee is $100. In addition, the “film crew” applicants are required to provide proof of a $2 million insurance policy.

    In a response to the suit, New Hampshire's attorney general explained the policy, saying it is “narrowly tailored to serve the legitimate, significant, and substantial governmental interests of managing varied and competing uses of park resources, mitigating the impacts of commercial events, protecting and conserving the park, protecting visitors from unwelcome and unwanted interference, annoyance or danger…”

    Doyle says he simply can’t afford the hundred bucks much less the insurance policy.

    “I’m no Hollywood production company,” explained Doyle. ““I don’t have that kind of money. “

    The Rangers say they can make anyone “making a film” apply for a “film permit,” even if the film is a YouTube video, and some legal observers agree.

    “YouTube videos can be considered analogous to a filming,” says Doug Burns, who argues the growth of the video site has changed the nature of YouTube.

    “[YouTube] is widely disseminated to millions of people,” he explained, “so, theoretically, it takes on a commercial overtone.”

    “I think that’s absurd,” responded Doyle. “I’m just a guy out there with some friends trying to have fun.”