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Law and Taking Photos

Posted by Matt on March 19th, 2008 filed in Digital Photography Hints & Tips, Outdoor Photography, Photographers Rights, Urban Photography

PhotoJoJo have a great summary of the ‘ten commandments’ of laws relating to taking photos in public spaces. Some of the points I already mentioned in my own photography law post a few months back, but here are some of theirs with a US focus (with the usual disclaimer that they and I are not trained lawyers, so this cannot be taken as legal opinion!):

  • If you are on public property: You can take photos of whatever you like, including private properties, as long as you’re not breaking any governmental secrecy laws. This iincludes pictures of people unless they are taking efforts to hide their actions – eg, entering PIN numbers. This also includes things like accident and fire scenes.
  • On private property: If asked by an employee, security guard of posted sign then you cannot take photos.
  • If approached: You are not required to answer why you are taking photos and they are not allowed to take your camera/film. Even the police need a court order for that. Non-police officers have no rights to detain you and can be subject to harassment charges if they do. Do remain polite and non-aggressive though!

PhotoJoJo also suggests you print out a copy of photographer’s rights from here to carry around, and you can read their great list of ‘laws’ here. For those of us in other countries you can find laws here for: UK, Canada, Aus or NZ.

2 Responses to “Law and Taking Photos”

  1. Nathan Nutter Says:

    I was walking down the street and a journalist for Portland Business Journal took a picture of me without my permission and published it. Do i have any legal rights? or am i SOL?

  2. Matt Says:

    I can’t give official, binding legal opinion – so for a final view you would need to talk to a lawyer. However as you didn’t sign a model release and if you’re the main, identifiable person in the photo then you may have grounds for compensation/damages. As I understand it from a colleague of mine who works in magazines people do sue newspapers and periodicals all the time for this as it’s unapproved commercial use of your likeness. Hope that helps.

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