Legality of Taking Photos - Explained

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Meysha, May 12, 2005.

  1. Meysha

    Meysha still being picky Vicky

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    This is just a bit of info for everyone on legal rights.
    Ok, the never ending question... is it legal to take photos in public of people, buildings?

    I've collected a few sites that have lots of info. What's even better - they're all written in plain english! (for the most part)

    http://www.photopermit.org USA and international section as well.
    http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=002kze US discussion
    http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00BwDn&unified_p=1 US more recent discussion

    http://critics.4020.net Australia

    http://www.ac-grenoble.fr/crt/national/Dtimage.htm French Law (en fran├žais)


    I'll quickly summarise what I've read.
    In the US you can take a photo of whoever you want so long as they are in a public place (ie not in their living room) and you can do whatever you want with it so long as it doesn't degrade the person or you don't make money from it. You are allowed to take photos of any building so long as there is no "Photography not permitted" (or equivalent) sign. If it is a private building, and a staff member does come up to you and tells you it's legally forbidden, you must stop, but they can't force you to delete the photos you've already taken.

    In Australia, we don't really have a right to privacy act like the americans do. So, as long as you don't degrade anyone in your pics then you're fine. Same conditions apply to the buildings as the americans have I think.

    For the UK, I haven't actually found the law itself yet, but reading the web, it seems you're similar to US and Australia. Although you might have more pressure to get people to sign releases.

    In France, they're just a pain. You, legally aren't allowed to take a photo of most of the buildings in Paris (lit-up eiffel tower, the louvre pyramid) because they are all copyrighted. The laws relating to people are really really confusing. Journalists can basically show whoever they want on TV if it's of significant importance to the country, or if the person is in public and cleary not wanting to not be photographed. But normal photographers, can't even take pics of people in public without their permission. There's a whole nother law about diffusing the pics. But that brings me to wonder, what distinguishes a journalist from another photographer? Am I a journalist because I take photos and put them on my blog (which is a source of news)? Does that mean the journalist rules apply to me?
    I think Germany is similar to France by what LaFoto has been saying.

    And I'm purely guessing that New Zealand laws are going to be pretty similar to Aus and US laws.

    I couldn't find any information on taking photos in one country and then publishing them (say on the net, no profit) in another country.

    Oh and just to cover my own butt now. I'm not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Always talk to a qualified lawyer before making any decision!
     
  2. Meysha

    Meysha still being picky Vicky

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  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Looks like you have collected some good info. I'll have to read some of it....one of these days. :lol:

    Just curious, in the US, you say that if a representative of a building comes and tells you that it's "legally forbidden" to take photos...you must stop. What would make it 'legally forbidden'? What laws would a photographer be breaking by continuing to shoot? There is the issue of logos & trademarks on buildings but I can't see how it can be perfectly legal to photograph a building one minute and then not legal the next, only after someone with no public authority tells you so.
     
  4. Digital Matt

    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    Thanks Meysha. It's important to know your rights when you are out there photographing.
     
  5. Meysha

    Meysha still being picky Vicky

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    My messy words "Legally forbidden" would mean that you are standing on private property photographing a private building or part of it and the company (or whatever) that owns it has a no photography rule. I'm not sure if the company needs to have that rule in place but either way it's a private company and they can set whatever rules they want. I'm pretty sure no one can make you delete your photos in any case - but they could arrest you if you really are in the wrong (ie, standing private property, photos of private building and no photography sign right next to you). Then the court will tell you to delete them.

    Again - I'm no lawyer, just gathering info off the web.
     
  6. Meysha

    Meysha still being picky Vicky

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    Well actually I think they do have the 'public authority' in this case, because they're representing a private company who can make up whatever rules it likes. And if these rules aren't clearly visible then how are you suppossed to know them? But as soon as they do tell you the rules you know them so you must obey them.

    However this contradicts the small amount of legal studies I did do, which says that you don't need to know a law for it to apply to you. Think about all the people in the world who have been tried for something, they didn't necessarily know the law, but they were punished or benefited from it.
     
  7. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Thanks,

    I get what you are saying, I just thought that what you meant was that if you were on public property someone could come out and tell you to stop. That didn't seem right. As I understand it, if you are on public property, you can photograph whatever you want...(not counting privacy laws etc.)

    If you are on public *edit: private* property, it's fully understandable that the property owner/rep. has the authority.
     
  8. Meysha

    Meysha still being picky Vicky

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    I think you meant 'private property' in your last sentance there.
     
  9. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Here is another, slightly related, point about legal copyrights in Canada.

    Similar to most other countries, Canada's laws say that if someone takes a photograph, they own the copyright. However, here is where it differentiates from other contries... If the photograph (or other artwork) is commissioned (if you are paid to make it)...the copyright is then owned by whoever commissioned it, not by the photographer. This puts Canadian photographers at a disadvantage in a global market and there are a few groups working to ratify the laws.
     
  10. Rob

    Rob TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for that - it's been the only paper on the UK law I've seen which has been written by someone with a qualification in law, rather than a photographer. The only bit I didn't realise at all was the power station stuff - It's going to make me thing next time I'm doing some industrial stuff.

    It also explains why the photographers outside the Old Bailey hang out on the opposite side of the road with 70-200 lenses!

    Rob
     
  11. LizM

    LizM TPF Noob!

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    Not to be rude but that is sooo wrong. Buildings built after a certain year (can't remember which - would have to look it up) are actually protected by copyright law in some instances. In theory, you can't photograph them for anything other than news or personal use without permission whether it be public or private property. In practice, it is rarely enforced. On older buildings you can snap away as much as you want as long as you are standing on public property and not invading the expectation of privacy (i.e. no taking photos through the windows of a house with the zoom lens). Of course, after 9/11 photos are getting harrassed more and more for taking photos of "sensitive" possible targets.

    As far as people go, it is the recognizable standard that is most often applied. If the person is recognizable you (legally) must have a photo release from that person for commercial use. If you are shooting for a news agency or just for personal use this doesn't apply. However, even a news agency can get in trouble for defamation of character (i.e. person napping on park bench with a caption about homeless people when the person isn't homeless). Also, in many states a photo release is not valid unless you pay the person for their release. (A rule I personally hate!)
     
  12. Meysha

    Meysha still being picky Vicky

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    I know there's different laws if you're going to actually be making money off the photos. I think I forgot to mention that the same 'no money making' rule applies to the buildings.
    I think it's generally understood that if something is private property and you're going to be making money off selling a photo of it, then you need permission.

    I did mention that what I stated is only for non-commercial use and so long as it doesn't degrade the person.
     

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