The Legal Side of Photography and TakenPlace
First of all, this article does not cover copyright.
However, as a general rule of thumb most photos can be licensed for editorial use but there are several conditions to be met before a photo can be licensed for commercial use. Here’s a quick guideline to the different licensing types and a very basic criteria needed each.
- Commercial Photography is used to sell or promote a product, service or idea. Advertising, marketing and promotional activities all fall into this category. In the majority of cases a model release or building release form would need to be completed if either are identifiable. There are some exception for public events, where if it is clearly stated that by being there you are giving permission to use your image for advertisement and promotion of the event and or sponsor.
- Editorial Photography is used primarily for journalistic or educational purposes. Images featuring people and things not licensed for commercial use can be used in newspapers, magazines (print and online), as well as text books and educational blogs.
- Retail Photography is generally commissioned or purchased for a client’s own personal use (e.g. wedding photography, portraits, pet photography, fine art, etc). Licensing issues do not arise as often in this category. While the photographer retains the copyright, the client’s fee may include a grant of reproduction rights.
Secondly, we are not lawyers and this can’t be taken as us giving you “legal advice”. We have listed some useful links to sites that can have the right to say they are giving legal advice.
Thirdly, I babble a bit and if you want to skip my ramblings, just refer to the bullet points above and you’ll get the gist.
Let’s start with public places.
In the UK the law for photographers is actually more complicated than in the US. This is because the term “public property” is a very loose term. In the UK everywhere is owned by somebody. If it isn’t owned by a private somebody or organisation, it’s owed by the Crown. This doesn’t mean by the Queen. It’s a little more complicated than that, as you’d expect.
There are some places of the Crown Estate that you are prohibited from taking photos, such as dockyards, mines and factories. Though the latter is due to the fact that a factory’s processes are considered intellectual property and, therefore, no photos are allowed without prior consent.
People in public and privacy.
Taking picture of people in a public place is ok, even without consent. And, yes this does include children or indeed law enforcement. If a subject or subjects are distinctly identifiable, a model release form is only required if you intend to license the photo for commercial use. As mentioned above, this also includes buildings and artwork. Where you need to get the owner’s and artist’s permission before licensing a photo for commercial use.
Use common sense. People have a “reasonable expectation of privacy”. You can take a photo into a private property if you are on public land but, for instance, if you are shooting into someone’s bathroom or bedroom, you are probably breaking the law.
There are places in public that people expect privacy say…. public toilets or changing rooms. See, it’s just common sense.
If someone waves you off, true you may be under no legal obligation not to take the shot, but is it really worth the potential verbal or even physical abuse that can occur?
So be respectful and considerate toward your subject. If people are making a deliberate attempt to conceal themselves from the public or the photographer’s gaze then this as good as a sign stating “Photos prohibited”.
Paparazzi use the excuses of “in the public’s interest” to waive this one, but we all know what we think of Paparazzi. So don’t be a pain in the butt.
Sensitive government facility and places of government protection, such as nuclear facilities that are deemed a potential major security risk are generally off limits.
Even if you are taking photos from public property, the security personnel of these facilities have the right to force you to delete these photos and confiscate your camera if they think you will persist. This doesn’t include the outside of police stations or local council building etc. as these wouldn’t be deemed as sensitive.
If it’s a place the public are expected to be, without appointment or invite, like a shopping centre or a museum, then it’s generally OK to take a photo, unless there is a sign or announcement asking you not to. Museums are a good example of this.
Author: William Phillips