Photographers are permitted to take photographs in public places with some restrictions on certain locations.However, there are two public places in London that prohibits photography to be taken for commercial purposes:
1. Trafalgar Square
2. Parliament Square
Prior written consent would be required from the Greater London Authority for Commercial Photography in the two locations and a significant fee will be payable.
In order to take photographs on private property, it is necessary for the photographer to obtain permission from the property owner prior to enter. Any person enters onto private property without prior consent will be liable for trespass.
- In England and Wales, unauthorized entry into any privately owned property or structure will constitute a trespass, regardless of whether damages are imposed on the property.
- In Scotland, the same unauthorized act will also commit a trespass but damages can only claimed if actual damages have been caused.
However, there are certain rights provided to the general public for access into designated areas:
- In England and Wales, certain areas of open country and coastline can be access by the public(Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000)
- In Scotland, there is a much wider right of access to all land, inland waterways and foreshores for public activities. (Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003)
It is a criminal offence to take any photographs in the court of proceedings and this can be seen as a serious offence.
Photographs of Children cannot be used for pornography purposes (Protection of Children Act 1978) but taking photographs of children in public areas are permitted.
Photographs of members of the military or national security forces are not allowed to be published to prevent any act of terrorism. (Counter-Terrorism Act 2008)
It is also an offence under section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to take photographs that are likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
58 Collection of information.
(1) A person commits an offence if—
(a) he collects or makes a record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or
(b) he possesses a document or record containing information of that kind.
(2) In this section “record” includes a photographic or electronic record.
The photograph must contain information of such a nature to raise a reasonable suspicion that it was intended to be used to assist in the preparation or commission of an act of terrorism
The Criminal Penalty for this Offence is severe:
(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—
(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, to a fine or to both, or
(b) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both.
Nevertheless, Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000 provides a defense of acting with a reasonable excuse but the onus of proof is required.
58A Eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of armed forces etc
(1) A person commits an offence who—
(a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been—
(i) a member of Her Majesty's forces,
(ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or
(iii) a constable,
which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or
(b) publishes or communicates any such information.
(2) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for their action.
The defense may be provided by showing that the photograph will but used for purposes other than for acts of terrorism.
The Criminal Penalty for this Offence is severe:
(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—
(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to a fine, or to both;
(b) on summary conviction—
(i) in England and Wales or Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both;
(ii) in Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both.
The Copyright law in the UK is similar to Australia (For more details, please take a look at my article, Photographer’s Rights: Australia)
Duration: Copyright in a photograph lasts for 70 years after the death of the Photographer.
Ownership: The owner of the copyright in the photograph is the photographer.
Protection: Copyright protects both from the photographer directly and indirectly copying the work.
Infringement of the Copyright is occurred through copying the photograph and in breach of the owner’s exclusive right. However, there must be copying of a substantial part of the photograph to be an infringement of the Copyright.
A right to privacy exists in the UK law, as a consequence of the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998. The right to privacy is protected by Article 8 of the convention:
Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
In the context of photography, it stands at odds to the Article 10 right of freedom of expression. In this instance, UK courts will consider public interest in balancing the rights through the legal test of proportionality.
Article 10 – Freedom of expression
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.