Simon Taylor LRPS, LBPPA
5 Collingwood, Farnborough, Hampshire, GU14 6LX
t: 01252 377099
m: 07799 890210

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Photographer's Rights

I have been been inundated with requests for details regarding the petition I have started at the Number 10 e-petition site. Linked here - I have NOT said that a bill is in preparation, or that legislation is being prepared, but am referring to the ID cards proposed by various bodies which will serve to create an 'uber class' of photographer, and restrict the use of cameras by normal citizens. These cards will only further the suspicion and misunderstandings that many photographers already suffer.

Worrying injunctions have occurred - such as this one which when you read the wording of the injunction itself, seems to support restrictions from public places.

I, and many photgraphers like me are getting increasingly frustrated at the restrictions that are imposed upon us, suspicion we suffer and the incorrect assumptions that are made. The whole situation has been recently exacerbated for me by the experience of two members of my local camera club. I have deleted details of certain names to protect individuals and clubs, but the words are theirs. This is an email sent to our club chairman:

"Hi ~~~~~

Just to let you know, as I dont want you getting any surprises, but ~~~~ and I got ourselves into rather a sticky situation yesterday. We decided (most stupidly) to go for a walk to take some photos rather than go off away from the area in the car. How I wish now that I had just gone to the seaside for a stroll!

Basically, we wandered along the road and into our local park, in the mind to take some pictures of falling leaves and pretty trees etc, there was a rugby tournament going on in the park and very stupidly we took a few pictures of the players (who happened to be children). We just did not think! Suffice to say, we were approached by two heavies who wanted to know who we were, what we were doing there, why we were taking pictures, what were we going to do with them, were we going to sell them, use them on the internet, publish them - the list goes on.

We were totally honest with them, gave our names and addresses etc, they then got a Child Protection Officer from the building to come talk to us, whilst waiting we were surrounded by 3 heavies so that we could not run away - most humiliating. The CPO lady basically told us that we should not be there, or didnt have any reason to. Since when was walking in a public park illegal!

She said she would have to contact the police, which she did, and we were asked to delete our pictures by one of the rugby club members. I was not going to argue and offered to do it there and then, which we did. However, the CPO lady wanted all our details, including whether or not we were members of a specific club or association, obviously we obliged by telling her we were members of a photographic club and that our pictures were purely an aid to help us improve our photography and that they would not have been published or put on the internet, or anything else for that matter.

Anyway to cut a long story short, after a lecture and being told "we cant ask you to leave, but you have no reason to be here, so we leave it to you to do the right thing" we ambled off home (just around the corner). An hour later a police woman arrived to ascertain our identity (most humiliating) and advised us politely that if we had had children of our own attending it would have been ok but a we didnt we should not have been taking photos. She however seemed more concerned that the official photographer there was upset because of his livelihood! So exactly who were they protecting. We had to show her our membership cards for ~~~~.

The upshot is - dont take your camera out near any kids - however, I asked the policewoman what happens if we take our cameras to the beach to take photos, apparantly that is ok if half clothed minors walk into shot, but not advisable to go to organised events and take photos without permission, even though being held in a public place. There were no signs up anywhere to say we could not take photos and we actually only took a few each of a couple of scrums (no faces to be seen anywhere just legs and a rugby ball!)

The reason for writing is to warn you that you may get a complaint from the Rugby Club or Protection Team as they all had our details!

Sorry to be a nuisance - and we wont be going anywhere like this again - is this world going completely mad. I know they have to protect their children, but all they had to do was ask us politely to stop, we did not argue with them when approached and said we would leave, but unfortunately we were presumed guilty of god knows what before we even had a chance to explain. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

~~~~~~~ and ~~~~"

There are a number of points to be raised here :

  1. It is not, in any way illegal to take pictures in a public place in the UK, irrespective of what is going on.
  2. Children have no more right (or indeed lack of right) to privacy than an adult.
  3. Child Protection Officers or any member of the public have no powers to demand ID from anyone.
  4. Forcible deletion or removal of images is an assault.
  5. Even the Police officer in this case was incorrect in her interpretation of the law and the advice that it's OK to take pictures of your own children, but not of others.
  6. After further investigation of this case, there was a club photographer at the event who was worried that these people were affecting his income, and notified the CPO. Again, as the event was in a public place (and advertised on the radio), they had exactly as much right to cover the event as he did.

I have asked at a couple of clubs, and it would seem that these CPO schemes often seem to be misleading as to the powers that a CPO has (or rather does NOT have), and the officials are often mis-informed, or not trained adequately.

There is a scheme in place to protect children involved in clubs and schools etc., which is operated by the Criminal Records Bureau. This is intended to screen people who come into close contact with children, and will give parents confidence that those people that temporarily care for their children are honest, good people. I have no problem with this (I am CRB checked myself), but it does not make the individual 'special', or give him any rights in law above any other person.

After further discussion of this with other clubs, and regional societies, one of the suggestions came in the form of an ID card, bearing a photograph, with wording as below :
[with photo]
Mr ~~~~ ~~~~ does not take photographs to sell or for any commercial purpose. You are asked to meet any reasonable requests and to respect his rights to follow his interest in photography in any public area. Photographs may be used in local, national or international competitions only.

Again, there are fundamental flaws in this approach.

1) OK, the credentials may be impressive, but so what? - why does this individual have any more rights, or is any more special than any other journalist, photographer, or member of the public?

2) Why should anyone restrict themselves to NOT take photographs for a commercial purpose?. If you are out with your camera and get a picture of something newsworthy, you should be able to sell the image the same as anyone else.

3) Why restrict yourself to using images for competitions. Why not put pictures on the wall, or again, sell them?

To summarise the card :

The card is a huge example of 'So What?' - It makes no difference if anyone is taking pictures for journalistic, commercial or amateur purposes. So what if the card carrier is stating he is only going to use pictures for competition? I think he is restricting himself unnecessarily, without any reason to do so. If he wants to sell a picture, or just pass it to the local paper for example, he should be at liberty to do so. It's like putting a sign on your car saying 'Even though I pay my road tax, I won't use a motorway' - you are restricting yourself without any reason.

What is the point of the credentials on the card? - why does this make the card carrier any better, or have more rights than anyone else? (no disrespect intended to the individual in the example)

Every citizen in the UK has the same rights as everyone else, this is a foundation of our country.

Encouraging these 'ID cards' is pointless, without authority and encourages false restriction.

If you want to carry a card, I think it would be better to carry a laminated card which states the law, so you can show it if challenged -

You are reminded that under UK law, there are no restrictions on taking photographs in a public place or on photography of individuals, whether they are adults or minors. There is no right to privacy in a public place, although photographers are of course subject to the usual libel laws in the same way as any other citizen and should observe them. Equipment or film may not be confiscated, or images deleted by any person or officer unless a warrant for such action is issued. Any attempt without a warrant is considered assault under UK law.

Deviating from the above is pandering to paranoia in my opinion.

March 2007, Simon Taylor


More notes and contributions

February 2009 - It's now illegal to take pictures of police officers, soldiers etc. - Petition to repeal new laws

481 signatures as at 23rd March 2009
2385 at 11 April 2009
3032 at 14 April 2009
3372 at 15 April 2009
4413 at 24 April 2009
5043 at 5th May 2009

Incredible developments on the 1st of July 2008 - Article at the Press Gazette, and the Home Secretary's statement.

Now on CurrentTV, Sky 193 & virgin 155.

I have been told by staff of the London Eye that I could not take photographs of it for "Copyright and Security reasons". Maybe because I was using a tripod was why they singled me out rather than the hundreds of tourists with hand-held cameras, but I'm sure if terrorists wanted a picture of the London Eye, they could find one on the internet, or in any one of thousands of publications.

Mr Livingstone, Mayor of London had proposed to erect signs in London's public areas suggesting that people using cameras may be taking inappropriate pictures of children. He has since made a u-turn on this, but one can't help feeling that the suspicion is still there. When influential politicians are making moves like this, it's up to us to ensure that they are put right on our rights as quickly as possible. More important is raising the issues so that the general public are aware of their rights to use a camera - it does not make you a bad person - and of other peoples right to use a camera as well.

Austin Mitchell's Early Day Motion is worth looking at.

If you do not understand your rights as a photographer, or you wish to inform a CPO or other person who incorrectly stops you taking photographs, refer to this very good summary on the subject.

This Yahoo! Group on photographer's rights might also be useful, sent from Robert Slade.

These are the reasons why I have raised the petition, and although there is no bill in the offing, it is vitally important that politicians such as Mr Livingston are fully aware of the basic rights UK citizens have, and that changes to restrict our use of cameras would require very fundamental changes in UK law.

An interesting dialogue here regarding publishing images of people in a public place. I have also in the past been requested to obscure numberplates on a car in a picture I published on the web. The complainant suggested that by me putting the picture on my website made him more likely to be the victim of car theft or cloning, and that he owned the copyright to my picture (!). The car and numberplate in question were of course, on public view every day in any case.

Tessa Mayes has written more on the subject at Spiked Online.

While I'm not entirely against CRB checks - this report at the Manifesto Club indicates how CRB and CPO over-application could even rob children of their childhood.

The Vale Of Glamorgan Council proposed to extend restrictions regarding photography in their borough. Thankfully, it was thrown out.

Paul Burgman (who admits he is bitter and twisted) seems to have misunderstood the issues, and has posted an abusive and libellous response on his blog. One of the problems with these issues can be that some people mis-understand and mis-represent the issues I have explained here, causing confusion. As the language is unnecessarily colourful, please only follow the link if you are happy to read a lot of swear words and inappropriate language.

Appeared on the Roger Phillips Show on Radio Merseyside, 9th March.

Ben Leapman of the Sunday Telegraph covers the petition on the 11th of March.

Australia - A Federal Parliament working committee proposes a ban in public places.

The response has been incredible -
14th February - petition started,
15th February - 179 signatures,
16th February - 970,
17th February - 2,246,
19th February - 5,023,
21st February - 12,676,
23rd February - 23,806,
27th February - 38,830,
5th March - 50,502
10th March - 55,856
13th July - 68,300

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