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 Since Section 44 of the Terrorim Act 2000 were repealed (it and other sections were ruled illegal by the European Courts) there seems to be fewer instances of harassment from the police.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.