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Photography Rights in Different Countries

written by: •edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/6/2010

Your rights as a photographer differ widely from country to country, and it's your responsibility to know the laws before you go there. This article discusses in brief photography laws in Australia, New Zealand, France and the UK, primarily with reference to how the differ from US laws.

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    A person does not have the right to not be photographed in Australia; as Australia has no Bill of Rights in the sense that many other countries do, there is no guaranteed right to privacy. However, there is also no guarantee to freedom of speech, except where political discourse (and by extension, the “newsworthy”) is concerned.

    (The exception is Victoria, where a “Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities” provides a working equivalent to a Bill of Rights.)

    It's not just a free-for-all, however, due to the absence of law. Tight anti-voyeurism, defamation and obscenity laws make photography often difficult to justify, particularly with the “artistic” which often attempts to blur these boundaries. These concerns will trump even occasions when consent by the subject has been given.

    Furthermore, just because something is publicly accessible does not mean that you are necessarily allowed to take photographs, as you can in the US. The owner of private property has full control over what actions you are allowed to take while on that land, and that includes photography.

    As in the US, no one has any legal right to confiscate your camera without a court order. While violence and coercion against photographers is unfortunately commonplace, it is not justified by the laws and may in fact lead to criminal offenses, perhaps small consolation.

    Military instillations again fall under special circumstances: while you may not have your camera permanently taken away, you may still be asked to delete certain photos.

    For an extensive discussion Australian photography laws, check out this article by NSW Photographer.

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    New Zealand

    Interestingly enough in New Zealand, there is no strict guarantee of privacy, particularly when it comes to photography. Instead, restrictions on photography come into play when it may be construed as “offensive” to a reasonable person. How offensive is defined as been a point of argument amongst the courts.

    For a discussion on photography in New Zealand, check out this article on unlawful photography in public places.

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    Generally, you can photograph anything in public: the problem arises when it comes to publication. By France's law, you are forbidden from publishing any photo where the subject has not given consent. Street photography has been essentially rendered illegal.

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    Here, you are allowed to take photographs of private property from public property, but once upon private property, the owner has ultimate control over whether or whether not you are allowed to photograph, even if it is publicly accessible. As with the US, most photography in these areas are guided by an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy.

    Certain locations within the UK restrict commercial photographs, but not recreational or artistic photographs, such as those made in Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, or any of the Royal Parks. Check out the individual restrictions on a place before you whip out your camera!

    What you have to look out for the most in the UK are a series of wide-ranging and constantly changing restrictions on photography. Unlike the US, which has very specific restrictions on photography on military instillations, the UK forbids any photography that may somehow prove of use to terrorists. This has been interpreted and enforced in very broad ways, more so by police officers than by the courts.

    For more information, check out this printout on UK photographer's rights.

Your Legal Rights as a Photographer

This series covers the basic legal rights of photographers in different countries around the world, as well as providing links to important resources and a guide to thinking about the parameters of legality, such as the legal difference between photographing and publishing a photograph.
  1. Photographer's Rights in the US
  2. Photography Rights in Different Countries