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Thread: Photographer's Rights

  1. #1
    mastamak's Avatar
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    Photographer's Rights

    There is a debate raging in Australia at present regarding the rights of photographers, both professional and amateur, to take photographs in public places. This culminated in a public demonstration in Sydney in August, attended by a number of Internationally recognised photographers, complaining about the erosion of photographers rights. This takes several forms:
    1. A claim by Local Authorities, Governments and indigenous groups that they own copyright of images of national icons. This includes, in the Australian context, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach, Uluru and Kakadu National Park. Even in the city where I live the Local Council attempts to prevent photographers from accessing the Esplanade and lagoon areas. Photographic access to these sites may require payment of significant fees.
    2. A general perception, wrong at it turns out, that individuals own copyright to their own image. That is, you can't take a crowd scene in case one individual objects.
    3. A public paranoia that any person armed with a camera in a public place must necessarily be a pervert intent upon capturing your image for nefarious purposes.

    Consequently, there is real danger that the photographic record of day-to-day life will disappear from the historical record. In Australia the works of Max Dupain in capturing Sydney beach life between 1930 and 1960 are now considered to be masterpieces. I am sure every country has their own Max Dupain but who will be the Dupain of the 21st century if no one is game to use their camera in a public place?

    There was a recent notorious event in my city where a completely innocent tourist was hauled before the police after a complaint by a backpacker. His crime, taking photos out of the window of his taxi as he drove in from the airport and, in the course inadvertently photographing a cafe where a number of backpackers were accessing the internet. The police claimed this action was illegal, however I don't think this is the case, certainly not in Australia where, fortunately, we do not have a Bill of Rights (or more correctly Bill of Wrongs). A terrifying experience for a tourist just arrived in the country.

    What is the situation in the UK, Canada, USA, NZ, Europe? Is this something we should be concerned about? Or do we just roll over and let the authorities intimidate us?
    Grant

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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Quote Originally Posted by mastamak View Post
    The police claimed this action was illegal
    I guess that at the end of the day the police can think what they like ... it's the courts that decide in the end.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    OMG, no I don't think the local councils here do have that power, but I hope no sees/hears of this and thinks 'that's a good way to raise some more money'.

    I am only aware that the floodlit Eiffel tower in Paris is a registered trademark and that in theory, protects its copyright and should apparently prevent you taking pictures.

    In the UK, it seems to be all about who owns the land you were on when taking a photo, not what the subject is once you exclude military installations, serving officers, (including police if recognisable), etc. - but I'm no expert.

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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    I had a railway official tell me I wasn't allowed to take pictures without permission at a train station and was discussing the confiscation of my camera. Given that I was just looking through shots taken earlier while waiting for a train I was a bit bemused.

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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Quote Originally Posted by RichB View Post
    I had a railway official tell me I wasn't allowed to take pictures without permission at a train station and was discussing the confiscation of my camera. Given that I was just looking through shots taken earlier while waiting for a train I was a bit bemused.
    Could almost be quite profitable for someone with a bit of money to call their bluff - and haul their butts into court. I suggest Alan Shaw or Denny Crane for a legal team!

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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Hi Grant - Yours is a timely if disconcerting post. Your account suggests that matters are worse in Australia than in the UK, but accounts are published about harassment in the UK as well. I believe there was a discussion here in CiC about year ago. I feel very wary about taking shots in public places unless there are other photographers present.

    Regarding the UK, I have just done a Google search for "photographers' rights" and found the following link:

    http://www.sirimo.co.uk/2009/05/14/u...ers-rights-v2/

    There is a pdf file that I have downloaded and intend to study. If anything comes out of that perusal I shall report back. Depending on its exact content and length it may be worth our while printing off a copy to keep with us when out shooting.

    Perhaps a more sophisticated Google search may give some info for Australia and other places.

    Cheers

    David

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    arith's Avatar
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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    I have read somewhere it is not illegal to take photo's of buildings, even private ones unless they are MOD or defense related, the only exception being train stations, but I think I would avoid any transport terminus.

    Sounds like the Australians are trying to raise some tax, what about painters, are they not allowed to paint what they see.

    Must pop off now because the computer repair man told me to not use the computer, apparently my HDD is failing which is annoying because it is only a couple of years old.

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    David's Avatar
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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Here's an Australian document:

    http://4020.net/words/photorights.php

    and one for the US:

    www.krages.com/phoright.htm

    David
    Last edited by David; 3rd October 2010 at 11:34 AM. Reason: correction

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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Quote Originally Posted by David View Post
    Regarding the UK, I have just done a Google search for "photographers' rights" and found the following link:

    http://www.sirimo.co.uk/2009/05/14/u...ers-rights-v2/
    Very interesting article. Having read it, I can't help but think that 99% of the issue can probably be avoided with a little common sense, respect, and courtesy. I wonder how many times the issues occur because of "assertive personalities" on both sides?

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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Re the document at: http://www.sirimo.co.uk/2009/05/14/u...ers-rights-v2/

    This document, written by a solicitor called Linda Macpherson, is cited by many other web sites pertaining to photographers' rights in the UK. Having now read it, I think it is certainly worth having in your kit. One aspect, however, needs clarification. The download version that I have is dated 30th March 2009. The part therein relating to Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 will no longer be valid, as that Section 44 no longer applies in the UK. Details can be found at:

    http://www.urban75.org/photos/photog...terrorism.html

    and at:

    http://www.met.police.uk/about/photography.htm

    The latter site refers to the Metropolitan Police in London, but would now be generally applicable across the UK. Basically, it is saying "do not harass photographers".

    All very interesting.

    David

  11. #11

    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Quote Originally Posted by RichB View Post
    I had a railway official tell me I wasn't allowed to take pictures without permission at a train station and was discussing the confiscation of my camera. Given that I was just looking through shots taken earlier while waiting for a train I was a bit bemused.
    Train stations in the UK are private places, and you need permission to photograph. He was being a bit keen stopping you chimping, but perhaps he had only just seen you and thought you might have just taken a shot.

    My general rule is if I'm standing in a public place I am allowed to take photographs - of anything. If someone stops me (as they sometimes do) and says 'Oi, you can't take pictures here' I ask them to clarify which law prevents me from doing so. That normally throws them into panic and they say something like 'It's just not allowed, OK' at which point I suggest they take a trip to the Foreign Office. But don't try that unless, like me you look like a thug.

    If it's an individual who has had their shot taken by me and they object, I explain why I have taken a shot that includes them. If they still object I would delete the shot for them. That has never happened so far.

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    David's Avatar
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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Hi Rob - Regarding stations the following is taken from:

    http://www.urban75.org/photos/photog...-railways.html

    (I hope they don't mind.)



    Photographers Rights - railway stations and tube stations
    A brief guide for street photographers.
    (©urban75, updated December 2009)

    You do not need to ask permission in most circumstances, although that doesn't stop some security-obsessed jobsworths trying to stop you.

    However, it's worth checking with individual companies before snapping and always use your common sense - if you're getting in everyone's way or creating a safety risk, expect to be turfed off sharpish.

    Network Rail's official line is that enthusiasts are very welcome and can be beneficial to security by providing extra 'eyes and ears.' All they ask is that people notify station staff and don't do anything silly like hanging over platform edges as trains are approaching, which isn't unreasonable.

    Taking photographs on stations is permitted providing it is for personal use. For any commercial photography, prior permission must be sought from the appropriate train operator or, from Network Rail at their 17 major stations. On busy stations the use of a tripod may cause a dangerous obstruction to passengers and you may be asked not to use one.

    In addition, tripod legs must also be kept away from platform edges and behind the yellow lines. Flash photography on platforms is not allowed as it may distract the attention of train drivers and train despatch staff and is therefore a potential safety hazard. You are also not allowed to take photographs of security related equipment such as CCTV cameras.

    Railtrack guidelines for rail enthusiasts

    Virgin Trains have adopted a similarly sensible policy, with posters erected on stations in November 2009 advertising their policy:

    Virgin trains welcomes rail enthusiasts and passengers who wish to take still or video images at our stations.

    We ask that you do not interfere with the flow of passengers and respect the wishes of both passengers and staff not to be photographed. If you are filming for extended periods and/or using bulky equipment you should make yourself known to our station staff so that the reasons for filming are clear.

    Flash photography is not permitted at any time and the use of tripods should be avoided whenever possible. If you wish to use a tripod you should locate and speak with the Station Team Leader to ensure that you are in a safe area.



    Tube stations
    Seeing as we've heard so many instances of people being hassled over this, here's the low down: non-commercial photography on tube stations is most certainly allowed - and if any busybody tries to tell you different, politely tell them to bury their head in part 10 of rule Sa109 in the Working Reference Manual:

    10.1 Passengers can take photographs with small cameras for private purposes, provided flashlights and/or tripods are not used no obstruction or inconvenience is caused to staff and/or passengers.


    Looks like you can snap away so long as you don't cause a hazard.

    David

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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Quote Originally Posted by arith View Post
    I have read somewhere it is not illegal to take photo's of buildings, even private ones unless they are MOD or defense related, the only exception being train stations, but I think I would avoid any transport terminus.

    Sounds like the Australians are trying to raise some tax, what about painters, are they not allowed to paint what they see.

    Must pop off now because the computer repair man told me to not use the computer, apparently my HDD is failing which is annoying because it is only a couple of years old.
    It depends on the building and where you plan to take the photograph. For instance, if you are visiting a trademarked building that let's you have access to the interior but the entry ticket specifically states "no photographs inside the building", then you cannot photograph inside the building. You might be able to photograph the exterior but it would be a personal photograph and you could not benefit financially from the photograph.

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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Mass Photo Gathering
    http://photographernotaterrorist.org/

    This link was posted some time ago and is related to the current topic.

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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Here's a link that applies to the US. Plus the article is kinda interesting with additional links at the bottom. It is from USA Today.

    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columni...y-rights_x.htm

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    mastamak's Avatar
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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Thanks for the various comments and thanks David for the Australian reference. I have read it in detail as well as the previous posts on CiC. It is a matter I am going to take up with our local Council and your response has given me some good background information. My personal concern is that it seems I might be subject to some sort of harassment if I chose (as I have done several times) to photograph my grandchildren at the local water park. Personally, I have only been harassed once, as a photographer, and that was in New Zealand (Colin please note) but I think it was more a case of a couple of yobbos with nothing better to do and easily handled by just walking away.

    Grant

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    arith's Avatar
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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    I live on a social housing estate, and therefore know exactly how to handle the fuzz. When they ask you politely something they know is illegal to ask, scream at them, give them verbal pain and don't stop.

    It is hard for an ordinary person like me to do, especially because you are likely to be coshed, but you would be amazed at the amount of help that turns up, and the cops always back off.

    It is hard to believe this is true, but believe me the cops look for victims just the same as criminals do, somebody easy to give a hard time to; like a photographer.


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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Quote Originally Posted by David View Post
    Here's an Australian document:

    http://4020.net/words/photorights.php

    and one for the US:

    www.krages.com/phoright.htm

    David
    Thanks for that reference David. A ggreat read, particulalry as I do sell my images.

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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    This subject is not very well described in NZ law as far as I can discover. There is a discussion paper by a law firm "Clendons" which doesn't help much, it is more concernewd with intellectual rights than an individual's rights to take photographs in a public place. THere is a good pamphlet available in USA which is quite clear but that's only in American law.

    So I don't really know what rights we do have in New Zealand - if any!

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    Re: Photographer's Rights

    Hi All,
    I've come into this one very late. Sorry about that.
    The situation in UK was clarified a short while ago. You can take pictures of whatever you want, whenever you want as long as you do it from a public place and you do not infringe another person's privacy. This last one can be a bit tricky, but the general rule is that if they're in a public place and they're in your frame, then they're fair game. If they approach you and ask you not to photograph them and/or remove any images you may have taken of them. That's fair and reasonable, and you should comply.
    No-one has the right or the authority to insist that you remove any images although that won't stop security job's-worths from trying. The rule is that the building line (in the City) will be marked by brass strips or studs on the pavement. If you're inside that demarkation you are technically trespassing and can be prevented from taking pictures.
    As far as public buildings are concerned it's pretty simple. They are just that, 'Public'. They belong to you and me, so you grant permission to yourself to take pictures of them.
    The other argument being fostered is "Terrorism or Tourism". This is not so easy to argue, but principally someone bolting a £1,000 camera to a tripod whilst wearing a sack on his back full of glass and other odds and ends is unlikely to be a covert spy. Certainly in UK no policeman will stop you as long as you stay on the public side of any building.
    I've found that 5 minutes spent having a chat to the security guys before you start shooting normally pays off handsomely.

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