Loïc Magnien Street Photography Street Photography : Know Your Rights 1

Street Photography : Know Your Rights

As a photographer, you need to know your rights when it comes to street photography. The other day I was shooting in East London for one of my photography projects when this conversation happened. To make it simple, I was shooting a ice cream van and its queue of people waiting to be served. The van was parked at one of the entrances of a park and at some point the vendor started shooting:

– “Hey you! stop taking pictures right now!”

I eventually kept on shooting until I got the image I was looking for. The vendor started yelling:

– “You have no rights to take pictures of me without my permission!”

– “Well… I have”

– “No you don’t, delete these photos right now or I will call the police”

– “Just do it”

– “I don’t know where these pictures will end up and you could be a terrorist”

I had no way to prove I wasn’t a terrorist and decided that explaining the whole law to this person wasn’t going to change anything and wouldn’t be a wise use of my time so I just walked away.

However I thought about this event and discussed it with some of my friends that may have accepted to delete their work in such situation. I did some more research on the topic to dig what’s the law states and sum it up here. There is the 8 things to know about your rights:

  1. You have the right to photograph in a public space. ‘Public space’ is anything but private property. if you are standing on a public space photographing a private property, that’s OK. You do need to make sure that you haven’t accidentally strayed onto private land. Even if you simply lean over a wall or a fence to take a photograph, this can be classed as trespass.
  2. The Press Complaints Commission’s code of practice advises: “It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without consent.” It also defines a private place as: “Public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.”
  3. You can take photographs at train station or in the tube for personal use but will need to get the permission from the train operator for commercial use. Flash photography and tripods are not allowed at platforms and in the trains for safety reasons (blind and obstruction).
  4. You have the right to photograph people in public and you don’t need their ‘model release’ for commercial use. A model release is a confirmation of consent given to a photographer by the person in the photograph to use the image for whatever purpose.
  5. Anyone who demands you to delete your pictures or give them you gear should, and uses threatening behaviour, could be committing assault. Similarly, if they use force to take your camera or memory card then not only could they commit assault, but also the civil tort of trespass to goods and trespass to person. If they withhold your camera or memory card then it’s theft and a criminal offence. In this situation, call the police.
  6. Harassment will occur when a person ought to know that his conduct amounted to harassment if a reasonable person in possession of the same facts would believe it was. The behaviour must have occurred on at least two occasions.
  7. Libel (a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation) can award considerable payments to parties found to have been libelled. The majority of instances where libel is an issue for photographers is in their image title or a caption.
  8. An inclusion of a copyright work, such as a painting in the background or advertising material on display in a street scene, isn’t an infringement of copyright.

You will find the relevant extracts hereunder but long story short the restrictions have to deal mostly with private property and public space.

  • Everyone has a right to photograph in a public place.
  • ACPO/Met police agreed Media Guidelines confirm that the police have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what journalists record.
  • If challenged by police try to record the conversation. Get witness names and contact details. Also badge numbers of police officers and a receipt for the stop.

Stop & Search Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act 1984

You don’t have to give your details but best to politely cooperate & show a press card if you have one. Under this act police must:

  • Provide ID, name and police station.
  • Tell you the object of proposed search.
  • Provide a search record (important for any later legal action) Section 1 PACE allows the police to search you if they have reasonable suspicion that you have an offensive weapon.

s43 – Terrorism Act 2000

  • With reasonable suspicion police can stop and search you for anything that may constitute evidence that you are a terrorist.
  • A police officer of the same sex must search you.
  • Police can seize and retain anything reasonably considered evidence.

s47a – Terrorism Act 2000

A senior police officer with reasonable suspicion can designate an area where it is thought an act of terrorism might take place. No reasonable suspicion is required to stop and search for terrorism evidence. Police can retain anything found and reasonably suspected of being evidence.

s58a – Terrorism Act

It is illegal for a person to elicit or attempt to elicit (collect) information from an individual who is, or has been a member of the armed forces, intelligence services or a constable, which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person preparing an act of terrorism or publishes or communicates any such information. Equipment can be viewed and seized. Maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

s60 – Public Order Act

  • Police can authorise a designated area on reasonable belief that serious violence has taken, or may take place.
  • Police can search individuals or vehicles in that area with or without reasonable suspicion, for prohibited weapons or dangerous instruments (e.g. sharps).
  • Police can require removal of any item used wholly or mainly to conceal identity.
  • Journalists could be charged with obstruction if they refuse to cooperate.

s5 – Public Order Act

  • Using threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour within the hearing of someone likely to be harassed, alarmed or distressed.
  • An arrestable offense and a fine up to £5000.00 if you actually cause harm or offense.

s14 – Public Order Act

  • The most senior police officer can place conditions on a public assembly such as place, duration and numbers and can clear an area if he/she believes that serious disorder, threat to property or disruption to the life of the community will occur.
  • It is a criminal offense not to cooperate and you can be fined or imprisoned.

Accredited Persons

  • A chief constable can set up a community accreditation scheme.
  • Traffic wardens, security guards, store detectives etc can apply and get the powers usually associated with the police or Police Community Support Officers. They are issued ID cards.
  • Can issue fixed penalty notices for a wide range of minor offenses. They have the power to photograph, take names and addresses of persons they suspect of a crime or anti social behaviour. Offense if you refuse.
  • They do not have the power to detain. Police Community Support Officer can detain for 30 mins until police arrive

If Arrested

Remain calm, polite and reasonable at all times

  • You will be taken to a police station. Police are not entitled to seize journalistic material without a court order of judge.
  • Make sure custody record logs your journalistic material (kit/phone/memory cards etc), protected under PACE as ʻSpecial Procedure Materialʼ. Make a note of the seal numbers on the evidence bags, ensure they are listed on the custody record.
  • You have the right to inform someone of your arrest, police must ensure this happens swiftly.
  • You have a right to free and independent legal advice whilst in custody. A duty solicitor on rota will be available, or better request your own specific solicitor.
  • Private Security have no additional rights other than that of an ordinary citizen on public property. Except where they are Accredited Persons. You can be asked to leave whilst photographing on private property, you could be arrested and charged with the offense of trespass if you refuse.