Photographer's Rights - United Kingdom (UK)

General Rule

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.


Private Property

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)


Legal Restrictions


Law Courts

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.


Photographer's Rights - United States (US)

Photography’s Rights – United States of America


General Rule

“If you can see it and you are on public property then you have the right to photograph it.”

When photographing in the United States that you will possess the right to photograph almost anything apart from Military and Energy Installations.


Public Property

Photographers are permitted to take photographs of anything on public property.

Private Property

Photographers may require seeking permission when taking photographs on private property and there still can be restrictions imposed after the permission is granted. Otherwise, taking photographs on private property without permission can constitute trespass of private land.


Restricted Locations for Photographing

Museums, Galleries and Libraries

There will be restrictions imposed when taking photographs inside as they are still regarded as private property for the general public.



Generally, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) permits photography to be taken as long as it does not interfere with the security process. However, different airports have different regulations or authorities but when you are told not to take photographs then you should ask the basis of the legal authority.


Military and Energy Installations

Military installations are prohibited for the reason to protect national security. Energy facilities such as nuclear facility interiors prohibit photographing for similar reasons.

The law governing the Military and Energy Installation is stipulated in 18 USC Section 795 in relation to Photographing and sketching defense installations

Sec. 795. Photographing and sketching defense installations

(a)   {C}Whenever, in the interests of national defense, the President defines certain vital military and naval installations or equipment as requiring protection against the general dissemination of information relative thereto, it shall be unlawful to make any photograph, sketch, picture, drawing, map, or graphical representation of such vital military and naval installations or equipment without first obtaining permission of the commanding officer of the military or naval post, camp, or station, or naval vessels, military and naval aircraft, and any separate military or naval command concerned, or higher authority, and promptly submitting the product obtained to such commanding officer or higher authority for censorship or such other action as he may deem necessary.

(b) Whoever violates this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.



The photographer has the right to photograph children inside playgrounds. However, it might be regarded as a suspicious activity in most states of America and some people will question your motivation.


National Park

The rule that photography in national parks require a permit is only applicable for commercial photography. Therefore, a commercial permit is not required for general or personal photography.


Permissible Locations and Subjects for Photography

{C}·         Accident and fire scenes

{C}·         Celebrities

{C}·         Bridges and other infrastructure

{C}·         Industrial facilities and public utilities

{C}·         Residential and commercial buildings

{C}·         Transportation facilities

{C}·         Superfund sites

{C}·         Criminal activities

{C}·         Law Enforcement Officers


Commercial Purpose

General Rule: Permission will be required if the photography is designated for commercial purposes.

·         For a person, it is recommended that a release form to be signed.

·         For private property, the ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers, Inc.) recommends that a property release should be used.


Dealing with the Police Officer

In general when dealing with the police, it is always recommended to remain polite and cooperative without physical resistance. When you are stopped for photography, you should always request the police officer to release you by asking “am I free to go?” Also there is no reason to detain the photographer unless the police officer has reasonable suspicion for your association with any criminal activities.  If you are detained, politely ask what crime you are suspected of committing, and remind the officer that taking photographs is your right under the First Amendment and does not constitute reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. There will be no need to provide identification document to the police officer unless in the course of driving.


Confrontations and how to deal with them

The general public or any person in a public space has limited rights to bother, question or detain you without a legitimate purpose. There will be no obligations to explain or disclose your identity.

Private parties have very limited rights and any illegitimate detention may be subject to criminal and civil penalties.  

{C}·         They have no right to confiscate your film: taking your film directly or indirectly by threatening can constitute criminal offences such as theft and coercion.

{C}·         They have no right to harasses you: if you have been threatened or intimidated when taking photographs, they may be liable for criminal offences such as kidnapping and theft. Alternatively, under civil remedies that you may be entitled to compensation for assault, conversion and violation of constitutional rights under Torts.

In the event of confrontations, always start been polite and respectful and if the other party becomes hostile or unreasonable then you should avoid escalate into a violent situation. Alternatively, it is suggested that you enforce your legal rights as listed above and obtain the other party’s personal details. 



New York City

Photographers have rights to take photographs in the New York City subway under the State Code:

Rule 1050.9 (c), “Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used"   

Police can still arrest you but there were several successful law suits that the photographer have won and received a large sum of compensation.


Under the MTA rules, Photography is also permitted:

Section 1050.9 – Restricted Areas and Activities

3. Photography, filming or video recording in any facility or conveyance is permitted except that ancillary equipment such as lights, reflectors or tripods may not be used…

7. No person may carry on or bring to any facility or conveyance any item that:

i. is so long as to extend outside the window or door of a subway car, bus or other conveyance;

ii. constitutes a hazard to the operation of the Authority, interferes with passenger traffic, or impedes service; or

iii. constitutes a danger or hazard to other persons.



The Ownership of Copyright means certain exclusive rights for Photographers. For photographic copyrights, the ownership rights are defined in U.S. Copyright Act:

17 U.S.C. 106 for Photographs:

(1) to reproduce the photograph;

(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the photograph;

(3) to distribute copies of the photograph to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;

(4) to display the photograph publicly;


In general, the photographer who took the photographs owns its copyright and it is necessary to register this Copyright with the US Copyright Office. If photographs are not registered prior to an infringement (within 3 months of the first publication), a copyright owner may only recover “actual damages” for the infringement instead of statutory damages:

17 U.S. Code 504 - Remedies for infringement: Damages and profits

(a) In General.— Except as otherwise provided by this title, an infringer of copyright is liable for either—

(1) the copyright owner’s actual damages and any additional profits of the infringer, as provided by subsection (b); or

(2) statutory damages, as  provided by subsection (c).


(b) Actual Damages and Profits.— The copyright owner is entitled to recover the actual damages suffered by him or her as a result of the infringement, and any profits of the infringer that are attributable to the infringement and are not taken into account in computing the actual damages. In establishing the infringer’s profits, the copyright owner is required to present proof only of the infringer’s gross revenue, and the infringer is required to prove his or her deductible expenses and the elements of profit attributable to factors other than the copyrighted work.



Duration of Copyright: 

Copyright in Photographs lasts for the lifetime of the Photographer plus 70 years beyond. For example, Henri CartierBresson passed away in 2004 then Copyright of his photographs will expire in the year of 2074. The Duration of copyright in original works was stipulated in the Copyright Act.



(2)  Subject to this section, copyright that subsists in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work by virtue of this Part continues to subsist until the end of 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the author of the work died.

If the works of the Photographer has not been published, then the copyright in the work lasts for 70 years after the work is first published:

 (3)  If, before the death of the author of a literary work (other than a computer program) or a dramatic or musical work:

                     (a)  the work had not been published;...

the copyright in the work continues to subsist until the end of 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the work is first published…

For unknown or anonymous Photographers, the duration of Copyright is also 70 years after which the work is first published:


Duration of copyright in anonymous and pseudonymous works

(1)  Subject to subsection (2), if the first publication of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is anonymous or pseudonymous, any copyright subsisting in the work by virtue of this Part continues to subsist until the end of the period of 70 years after the end of the calendar year in which the work was first published.


NB: Copyright of Photographs taken prior to 1st January 1955 has expired.


Copyright Protection

Copyright protects a range of artistic works, including photographs. 

Copyright Protection is automatic and there are no procedural requirements or system of registration in Australia. Therefore, your photo is instantly protected by copyright from the moment it is captured. Australian Copyright owners are also protected in most other countries, as a result of International Treaties signed by Australia. For example, the Copyright Term stipulated in the Berne Convention stated that:

       Article 7

(1)The term of protection granted by this Convention shall be the life of the author and fifty years after his death.


NB: The Copyright Notice is not required for protection in Australia or in most other countries.


Ownership of Copyright

The General Rule applies to the Copyright ownership is that the photographer is the owner of Copyright, unless subject to agreement to the contrary. 

From a legal perspective, it is recommended to sign an agreement stating the ownership, whether written or partly written and partly oral. This agreement will act as a legally binding contract in the event of Copyright ownership dispute.  


Ownership of copyright in original works

 (2)  Subject to this section, the author of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is the owner of any copyright subsisting in the work by virtue of this Part….


Ownership of Copyright allows the Photographer to have the exclusive rights to:

  • Reproduce the Photographs
  • Publish the Photographs
  • Share the Photographs to the Public

Copyright owners also can assign (sell for commercial profits) or license (grant permission for others to use) their photos with/without terms and conditions. 


Restrictions of Copyright Use in Different Scenarios

  1. Photographs taken in a Commonwealth Reserve such as National Parks require a permit and subject to certain conditions for any commercial purposes. (The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2000 (Cth))
  2. Photographs taken on the Sydney Harbour Areas such as Darling Harbour or Circular Quay are subject to regulations for commercial uses. (Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority Regulations 2011 (NSW))
  3. Photographs taken in the course of Employment are owned by the employer unless there was an agreement made prior. For Photos taken by employees of newspaper and magazine publishers are subject to rules for different time period when the photo was taken:
  • Before 1 May 1969, the publisher owns all the Copyrights.
  • On or After 1 May 1969 & Before 30 July 1998, the publisher owns the rights of publication and broadcasting and the photographer owns all other rights.
  • On or After 30 July 1998, the photographer owns the rights to photocopy or include in books but the publisher owns all other rights.


For Photographs taken for the Government, the government owns the Copyright in the photos created or published unless there is an agreement to the contrary. 

For Commissioned Photographs, the general rules on ownership of copyright for paid Photographers that are for photos taken:

  • Before 1 May 1969, the person paid the photographer has the ownership.
  • On or After 1 May 1969 & Before 30 July 1998, the owner of copyright is the commissioning client unless otherwise agreed.
  • On or After 30 July 1998, for ‘domestic or private purposes’ the ownership belongs to the client. For any other purposes, the Photographer owns the Copyright of the photos.



Legal Protection for Copyright Infringement 

The General Rule applicable to the Infringement of Copyright is when dealings with Photograph/s that are intrusive to the exclusive rights of the Copyright owner without the owner’s permission. 


Infringement by doing acts comprised in the copyright

(1)  Subject to this Act, the copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is infringed by a person who, not being the owner of the copyright, and without the licence of the owner of the copyright, does in Australia, or authorizes the doing in Australia of, any act comprised in the copyright.

Rule in Application:

It will be an infringement if someone uses a substantial part of Copyright material without the permission of the copyright owner. “Substantial Part” is any important, distinctive or essential part of the original material, not necessarily a large part. 

Coincidental similarity does not constitute infringe. 


Steps to be take when by the Copyright Owner when there is an infringement:

1. Legal Advice – It is recommended to seek legal advice before deciding whether your copyright has been infringed. Advice in relation whether the infringement is “substantial” or there are any special exceptions before taking legal action. 

2. Objectives –

The Copyright Owner should decide how the matter will be resolved and what demands you are entitled to, which can include:

  • Injunction: Infringement Stop
  • Delivery or Disposal of the Infringement
  • Compensation for the Infringement

3. Contact the Infringer Directly, if it doesn’t work then;

4. Letter of Demand, it is worth considering getting a lawyer to draft this letter with more legal enforceability.

5. Court Action, this can act as the last legal resort after the Letter of Demand is not responded. The Federal Court of Australia, the Federal Magistrates Court and State and Territory courts all have jurisdiction to hear copyright infringement matters. (Please check the relevant Court Procedures and referrals for formal alternative dispute resolution procedures such as mediation, conciliation or arbitration for their respective websites)

  • Statutory Limit: Within 6 years for court action for Copyright Infringement.
  • The owner or owners of Copyright may proceed with Court action.



Civil Remedies:

Civil remedies are available for infringement includes damages or an account for profits. Damages are a monetary sum paid to compensate for the infringement and account of profits is the profit made by selling infringements copies. 

Criminal Penalties: 

Infringement can be a criminal offence and impose criminal penalties such as fines and imprisonment. This is for a larger degree of infringement usually at the commercial scale.



There are some exceptions or defences, which include:

  • Fair dealing for the purpose of criticism or review, research or reporting.
  • Special provisions for copying by libraries, educational institutions and governments.



Legal Actions for the Person in the Photographs

Unauthorised Use of Photographs

The areas of law in Australia that may assist the Photographer to start legal action and cease the unauthorised use of his/her Photographs are:

  • Defamation
  • The Trade Practice Act
  • Passing Off 


Defamation is legally defined as the action of damaging a person’s reputation, which decreases the respect, regard or confidence in that person. Publish or communicate photographs without consent does not necessarily constitute defamation as it has to be with a false intention. The unauthorised use of the photographs would need to either lower the public’s estimation of the person, expose the person to hatred, contempt or ridicule and induces disparaging, hostile or disagreeable opinions/feelings against the person.


The Trade Practices Act

Under the relevant sections of the Trade Practices Act (Commonwealth), it prohibits commercial conduct with misleading or deceptive purposes. To cease the unauthorised use of photographs under the TPA, it requires providing the evidence that the photograph is misleading or false representing. 


TRADE PRACTICES ACT 1974 No. 51, 1974

SECT 52: Misleading or deceptive conduct.

52. (1) A corporation shall not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that

is misleading or deceptive.


(2) Nothing in the succeeding provisions of this Division shall be taken as

limiting by implication the generality of sub-section (1).


SECT 53: False representations.

53. A corporation shall not, in trade or commerce, in connexion with the

supply or possible supply of goods or services or in connexion with the

promotion by any means of the supply or use of goods or services-


(a)  falsely represent that goods or services are of a particular standard,

quality or grade, or that goods are of a particular style or model;


(b)  falsely represent that goods are new;


(c)  represent that goods or services have sponsorship, approval,

performance characteristics, accessories, uses or benefits they do not



(d)  represent that the corporation has a sponsorship, approval or

affiliation it does not have;


(e)  make false or misleading statements concerning the existence of, or

amounts of, price reductions;


(f)  make false or misleading statements concerning the need for any goods,

services, replacements or repairs; or


(g)  make false or misleading statements concerning the existence or effect

of any warranty or guarantee.


Passing off

The law of passing off in Torts when there is a misrepresentation of a person that is in fact someone else’s. It is designed to protect the reputation of a person/business from misrepresentation. To succeed in an action for passing off, the plaintiff must prove misrepresentation made was intended to damage the reputation and caused actual harm to the person/business.There are some limitations to the law of Passing off when applying to individuals, but as long as the evidence is provided establishing the intention and actual harm occurred due to the misrepresentation, then the law of passing off applies. 

Moral Rights

Moral Rights are personal legal rights belonging to the owner of Copyright works and cannot be transferred, assigned or sold. Moral Rights are separate from Copyright as Moral rights impose certain obligations on people who use a Copyright Work. 

Moral Rights are defined in the Copyright Act as:

"moral right" means:

(a)  in relation to an author:

(i)  a right of attribution of authorship; or

(ii)  a right not to have authorship falsely attributed; or

(iii)  a right of integrity of authorship; and


Only Individuals have Moral Rights:



Moral rights conferred on individuals

Only individuals have moral rights.

Moral Rights belong to individual creators and they have the right:

  • To be attributed/credited for their work;
  • Not to have their work falsely attributed; and
  • Not to have their work treated in a derogatory way.


Duration of Moral Rights

Moral Rights lasts the same period as Copyrights, which is lifetime plus 70 years.

  • Right of Attribution

Creators have their right to be attributed when their work is reproduced, published, exhibited, communicated or adapted.

  • Right of False Attribution

Creators have the right not to have the authorship of their works falsely attributed.

  • Right of Integrity

Creators have the right to not have his/her work subjected to derogatory treatment, which means any action prejudices the creator’s honour or reputation.


There are two cases that do not contravene the moral rights:

  1. Consent 

The Copyright Act sets out several different regimes for providing consent to infringements of moral rights.

Subdivision B--Infringement of moral rights of performers


195AXA. Infringement of right of attribution of performership

195AXB. Infringement of right not to have performership falsely attributed

195AXC. Infringement of right of integrity of performership

195AXD. No infringement of right of attribution of performership if it was reasonable not to identify the performer

195AXE. No infringement of right of integrity of performership if derogatory treatment or other action was reasonable

195AXF. Infringement by importation for sale or other dealing

195AXG. Infringement by sale and other dealings

195AXH. Matters to be taken into account

195AXI. Communication by use of certain facilities

195AXJ. Performer's consent to act or omission

195AXK. Consent invalidated by duress or false or misleading statements

195AXL. Acts or omissions outside Australia


 2. Reasonableness

If reasonable course of action has taken in the circumstances that does not infringe the creator’s rights, a number of factors are to be considered: the nature of work, the purpose, manner and context, industry practice, course of employment/contract or if there are different views from multiple authors. 



The following Samples Letters of Demand have been included from the ArtsLaw Information Sheet and they are for the sole purpose of legal reference only, please contact the solicitor to draft a formal letter of demand or proceed with relevant court proceedings in cases of serious breach.

  • Moral rights infringement - Letter of Demand
  • Copyright Infringement - Letter of Demand
  • Copyright and Moral Right Infringement by Media - Letter of Demand (Visual Arts & Photos)

You should modify these Sample Letters of Demand to suit individual needs, please contact me for a PDF version of the above Sample Letters of Demand with Instructions. 



Image License

Exclusive License

An Exclusive License is a license which is in writing and signed by the Copyright owner. An exclusive licensee has similar rights to the owner of copyright, and may take legal action for infringement by third parties.

Non-Exclusive License

A Nonexclusive license offers the rights for reproduction or illustration of your work but at the same time, it also maintained the same rights for yourself.

Implied License

Permission may be implied from the circumstances. However, it can be difficult to assess whether a license is implied or not, as it will always depend on all the relevant circumstances.


The following Samples Image Licenses are for the sole purpose of legal reference only, please contact lawyer to draft a formal image agreement. 

  • Deed of Assignment of Copyright
  • Non-Exclusive Image License

You should modify these Sample Image Licenses to suit individual needs, please contact me for a PDF version of the above Sample Image License.