Olympic Games Photography Guide

I suspect over the next few months, in the run up to London 2012, there’s going to be a lot of Olympic themed fun and games for photographers. I’ve already come across numerous stories of photographers being harassed, such as the one in the Guardian video I’ve embedded below. Since Section 44 of the Terrorim Act 2000 were repealed   (it and other sections were ruled illegal by the European Courts) there seems to be fewer instances of harassment from the police. That should be the case, really. The Metropolitan Police have issued pretty clear guidelines for their officers and the public. FYI – some of the links in my post lead to other articles, but several lead to photography rights guides and carry cards.

Unfortunately, private security firms continue to interfere with photographers who are out and about snapping. They often seem to have little knowledge of the law. Worse, on other occasions they clearly understand the legal rights of the photographer, but choose to ignore them. The fact of the matter is, providing you are on public property you can photograph anything or anyone you wish to (for non commercial reasons) with very few exceptions. If you are on private property, then it’s a little different. You are bound by the conditions of the property owner, and that may include the prohibition of photography.

Generally speaking, photographs of Secret Service and MoD buildings are often out of bounds. Photos of minors (where the child is the main subject of the photograph) without parental consent is iffy too. Chasing someone down the street, repeating sticking your camera in their face is commonly called harassment. Causing an obstruction or interfering with a police officer, of course, has the potential of landing you in trouble.

Copyrighted works can be troublesome, again if they are the main subject of the photo. This part of the law always amuses me. I can understand, sometimes, why an artist wouldn’t want a close up shot of one of his or her works taken. If you are shooting a market place with lots of paintings in the frame though, he’s just going to have to live with it – you’re perfectly entitled to do so. But some companies also get really upset about photos of their logos and signage. Why?!?! The purpose of those logos and signage is to expose your brand to the public. And the reason a company wouldn’t want someone spreading the word…? Your guess is as good as mine.

I have never been stopped by the police or a security employee in the UK. But should that occur, I do know my rights. Every keen photographer should know their rights – this version is comprehensive, but dated as it still includes Section 44 legislation. Nobody, be they a police officer or a private security employee, has the right to stop you without reason for suspicion that you are (or are about to) commit an offence.

Private security guards have no lawful right whatsoever to stop you on public property, unless exercising their right to make a citizens arrest if you are committing a criminal offence. They need to be very careful however. If you are not committing a criminal act, then they have (at least potentially) committed a criminal act themselves – false imprisonment among them.

You are perfectly entitled to completely ignore a private security guard on public property – just make sure you know where public property ends and private property begins. If they harass, physically interfere or otherwise intimidate you, then call the police – they are the law breakers and you can report them. It is, perhaps, a sensible option to press the record button on your camera and capture the incident (audio, video or both) for future reference should it be necessary. they have no right to view, delete or require you to delete any images you have taken. They have no more right to ask you to stop photographing as you have to ask them to stand on one foot, wearing a traffic cone as a hat and sing the full five verses of the national anthem.

There is another area where photographers do have very limited rights however. Cameras, even compacts with long lenses will now be let into the stadiums, apparently, although this article is quite old and a final decision clearly hadn’t been reached at that time. I haven’t found updated info, sadly. Tickets for the London 2012 games all forbid the uploading of any of these photos to the internet, including Facebook, Flickr et al. It’s frankly ridiculous in my opinion, although there do seem to be some organisers who are taking a more common sense approach to it. The brand police are already in action as well. Even words are not safe. Two word combos such as London and 2012 are not allowed and could see you in court. Sellers will need to be imaginative.

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6 comments

  1. “You’re just not being very nice, are you” ? I think you guys on the east side of the pond started all this stuff….just kidding. I think this is the world to come in the future, just wait they will find some way to sneak some obscure law onto the books to continue to harass the general population. After a generation or two of this kind of treatment, it will become the norm.
    I have to thank those people for standing up to their rights.

    1. I don’t have much of a problem with anonymous automated observation of the general public (mostly via CCTV), although many do. It’s the harassment and obstuctions and restrictions that bother me. And it is important that some people stand up to that sort of crap. I’m ok with the photographers that go out ‘baiting’. Whilst they are trying to elicit attention, they’re still only doing what is within their rights. And the more publicity the issue gets, the better.

  2. Howdy :)

    Since your a camera-holic, I’m wondering, what’s the cost for a Canon camera in Mexico?

    I been dying to get one, but the cost here is to expensive.

    1. Moi? A camera-holic? If only I could afford to be….! :)

      It depends where you mean by ‘here’. I’m assuming you’re in the UK. In which case, a camera in Mexico will cost you almost exactly the same extortionate amount of cash as it will here. There’s little to no difference in prices of most electronics.

      Your best bet is to stop off in the US. They are a lot cheaper there. I used to get my camera supplies ‘smuggled’ across the border by an amigo. It saved me a packet. Or, when you’re in Mexico, jump on an autobus for a weekend trip over the border…

  3. After all the Brits who are standing up for their rights to photograph, you’d think the security morons would be issued a memo. It seems the rules are clear and fairly simple: if they’re on public property, piss off!

    But I give kudos to all the photographers who go out to continually educate these morons.

    Rights unexercised are rights lost.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we don’t particularly like the creeping police state.

    1. The UK is growing to be more like a nanny state every day. It is, I’m sad to say, becoming more like the US in that respect. That’s a very broad brush to paint with, given the size of the country and my limited experience within it. I’ll have to ask forgiveness for the sweeping generalisation. But it’s the little things, like the recent prohibition of drinking alcohol on the Tube and the ticketing for all sorts of minor offences with a ‘gotta meet targets’ sort of attitude – this is what irks me.

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