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Thread: Pictures of people in public places

  1. #1
    oleleclos's Avatar
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    Pictures of people in public places

    I am thinking of publishing some of my pictures through agencies like Alamy, so I have to think about some legalities. Including model releases where people are involved. Or maybe I don't?

    From my own research into UK law on photography in public places, plus checking with a solicitor, it seems clear that apart from places restricted for security reasons and a few other specific locations (*) there are no restrictions on photography in public places in the UK, and no model releases are required even if the pictures include people.

    *) Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square and the Royal Parks are examples of places from which you have to pay a license fee to publish pictures but still no model releases are involved. Absent such local rules, things like street scenes, beach scenes, market places etc. can be photographed and published in the UK without restriction.

    Model releases are as I understand it for people who appear in pictures taken in private, including professional models in studio settings, whether or not they are paid.

    Laws do differ in other countries, and publishers may want to cover themselves for foreign sales, but in the UK it seems straightforward. That's probably why we have so many paparazzi - not that I consider myself one.

    So it seems a picture like the following, shot on a public beach, may be freely sold. Does anyone have different views or experiences in this area?


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    Re: Pictures of people in public places

    There may be some answers in the responses on this recent thread: No model release - how do you get a photo removed from website

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    oleleclos's Avatar
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    Re: Pictures of people in public places

    Thanks Terri. There's some useful stuff there, and especially on http://www.danheller.com/model-release-primer.html

    Except it all refers to US law. The way I understand UK law is that people here do not have rights over pictures taken of themselves in public places, so the "publicity laws" Dan Heller mentions do not seem to have UK equivalents.

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    Re: Pictures of people in public places

    Ole,

    I was accosted in January by a burly Corporation Foreman when I decided to take a picture of a gang of workmen in a housing estate road near where I live. He said that his men did not want their pictures taken and as I did not have their written permission I could not take a picture. Although it was a really good street scene with plenty of colour and, for once activity, I was rather reluctant, but discretion (or cowardice) being greater than valour, I didn't argue and deleted the image in front of him. My concern at the time was that the road was temporarily closed to traffic and the pedestrian footpath was diverted so, as I know that to do that they would have had to have gone through the planning process and the Highways Department, I was not sure if the road was no longer a Public Place for the duration of the works, therefore he could be right. I researched this and although I could not find anything about roads under repair it confirmed that you can take pictures in public places of people and buildings, even if the people and places are on private land, without permission. If the land you are on is not public then you have to have permission, so presumably Model Release.

    It would seem that were you to take a picture of someone standing in a private garden when you were standing in a public place then you would not need permission to take the picture nor a Model Release to publish it.
    oleleclos found this helpful.

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    Re: Pictures of people in public places

    The National Trust can get a bit awkward about professional photographs taken on their land.

    I think the case with workmen relates more to potential problems of showing someone who is working while claiming benefits etc. Or maybe a spy for the boss trying to find lazy workmen, etc.

    Photographing people, without permission, can also be risky if the photo is used for advertising purposes which imply they are advocating a particular product, or have a point of opinion which may be contrary to their particular tastes.

    Also, photographing famous people from a public place but using a very big lens seems to have caused some recent controversy. But to me, if you have willingly become famous and don't want any embarrassing photos being taken, you would be well advised to keep your top on!
    oleleclos found this helpful.

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    oleleclos's Avatar
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    Re: Pictures of people in public places

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    The National Trust can get a bit awkward about professional photographs taken on their land.
    Thanks for your comments Geoff. Apparently National Trust properties fall into the category I was talking about which has special rules. Or maybe it's simply that National Trust property and land is not actually public property. The National Trust is not publicly owned but is an independent charity (if anything "owned" by their members), so although they allow public access, I think it could well be private property in legal terms.

    Anyway, I found this gem on their website http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visi...ore-you-visit/ :

    We know you want to capture your day out, but photography is only allowed inside some of our properties - please check if you are in any doubt.

    Now what does "only allowed inside some of our properties" mean? "Inside only some properties, but always outside" or "only inside, never outside"?

  7. #7
    oleleclos's Avatar
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    Re: Pictures of people in public places

    Quote Originally Posted by KCBrecks View Post
    I was accosted in January by a burly Corporation Foreman...

    It would seem that were you to take a picture of someone standing in a private garden when you were standing in a public place then you would not need permission to take the picture nor a Model Release to publish it.
    I would probably have backed off as well, even though I agree that this burly bully was both wrong and had a completely differently agenda.

    It is also my understanding that a picture of someone in their (private) front garden (or even back garden) taken from a "public highway" could be sold, but I'd draw the line at that (never mind turning mega tele lenses on minor or major celebs).

    What I am thinking of is pictures from genuinely public places: a windsurfer on the beach, a horserider in a country lane, a cricket player on the village green, and it seems to me that such images are free-for-all, certainly in the UK.

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    Administrator Colin Southern's Avatar
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    Re: Pictures of people in public places

    Hi folks,

    Slightly OT, but perhaps of interest to UK photographers none-the-less ...

    http://www.met.police.uk/about/photography.htm
    oleleclos found this helpful.

  9. #9

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    Re: Pictures of people in public places

    1. You don't need a model release to take a photo of someone either in public or in private*. You don't need a model release to sell a photo of someone taken in public or private (as a print or in a photo-book) or to display it in a gallery. You only need a model release if you use an image of a person for the purpose of advertising/promoting/marketing a product/service/business.

    2. Most stock photo agencies sell images to companies that want to use those images on their website or in adverts. For this reason many of the agencies require (or at least prefer) that you submit a model release with an image.

    3. The above means that you don't legally require a model release to take/sell images, but it can be a good business move to secure one, as it allows you to sell the image to someone who wants images for use in promoting their business.

    4. Anyone in public (roadworks or not) who tells you that you can't photograph them without permission is talking rubbish. However, discretion is the better part of not getting your face bashed in. If 8 construction workers tell you to delete an image it may be best to do so. Then walk away, swap out the memory card (don't take any other photos using that card) and when you get home use un-delete software to recover the image.

    * Photography in private. Put simply there are different levels of privacy. If you secretly photograph someone in the toilet or in their bedroom (a place where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy) you can get in trouble for invasion of privacy. However this is not true if they are in/on private property such as a front garden, in a privately owned museum or an office building.

    There is no blanket law prohibiting photography on private property. You are free to take photos on private property and to sell those photos - unless the owner specifically informs you that photography is prohibited. They can do this either by telling you directly or by posting signs. Even if they do prohibit photography they can't actually stop you talking photos, but they can ask you to leave their property and may call the police to have you arrested for trespassing if you don't. Even if arrested any photos you took are your copyright. You own them and neither the owner/staff or police can legally force you to delete them. A judge could order the photos to be destroyed but they won't do so over a simple trespass offense. There would need to be a serious legal infraction such as an invasion of privacy - you were shooting people in the toilets or taking "up-skirt" shots of women without their knowledge.

    As mentioned in previous posts some stately homes/gardens allow photography for personal use but prohibit any commercial exploitation (you can't use the images for advertising or sell them as post-cards/photo-books). Many sporting events have the same restrictions.

    This has nothing to do with copyright and nothing to do with the owners right to prohibit the taking of photos - as mentioned above, all they can do is ask you to leave and any photos taken are yours to do with as you wish. The reason these venues can prohibit commercial use is that you enter into an agreement (a contract) when you buy a ticket and accept the terms and conditions of entry. Any photos taken are legally yours. You own the copyright. However you have entered into a contractual agreement not to sell the images and the other party can sue for breach of contract if you do. Always check the terms and conditions that you are agreeing to when you enter such locations/events.
    Last edited by dan marchant; 30th October 2012 at 01:39 AM.
    Ady, Mark von Kanel, KCBrecks and 1 others found this helpful.

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