11 November 2009
Photography and the Law: A viewpoint from a Private Eye
Written by Jorge Salgado-Reyes
As a Private Investigator, I take photographs everyday of people who (if they knew) would object to their picture being taken.
Most of the work that I do occurs in a public place, a man and a woman holding hands, kissing, hugging, enjoying intimate dinners in a restaurants are all indicators that their partners sat at home pay serious money to be aware of. I have taken pictures and video of all this and more in my time.
Taking pictures of the public
Most people tend to believe that you need their express consent to take their picture and that taking a picture of a child is completely unlawful.
Nothing could be further from the truth, according to Home Office Minister Tony McNulty, "There is no legal restriction on photography in public places, and there is no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place." So contrary to popular belief, if the subject is in a public place i.e. the street, a pub, restaurant etc or I can see them from a public place then I can take the photo.
Taking pictures of Children
In today’s climate of child abuse hysteria, it is important to note that the law does not differentiate between an adult and a child in terms of photography in public. IT IS NOT AGAINST THE LAW! The age of the subject is irrelevant. So pictures of children are OK too.
However, if you are taking photographs of children in a public place and are seen then expect to be questioned but remember what you are doing is completely legal.
Expectation of Privacy
Most of us have seen the paparazzi taking photos of celebrities and most of us have asked ourselves, “isn’t that harassment? Are they not entitled to Privacy?”. Well it is possible that the taking of photographs of someone could amount to harassment. I’ll say it again "COULD". According to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Harassment is defined as "A course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another, and which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other." In other words, not just one incident and the person being harassed needs to be aware of the harassment.
The other question that you have to ask yourself is; is there a reasonable expectation of privacy? If the person whose picture is being taken is in a public place then by definition, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy and they are therefore fair game. Even if they are on private property but for example, their curtains are open and no trespass is occurring then you can take the picture.
The UK Photographers Rights Guide (in PDF format) goes into a lot more detail on this subject and makes for interesting reading.