Photographer’s Rights and Citizen Journalism – a collection of links

December 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Journalists, Media, Pictures

In preparing this story on couriermail.com.au, BlackBerry seizure an ‘abuse of police powers’, I asked my followers on Twitter if anyone knew the law regarding what can or can not be photographed in Australia. I received a lot of feedback and links, and am posting them here in case they prove useful to others. Let it be known I am not a lawyer, nor an expert in the laws governing this topic. This is just a collection of interesting links, perhaps useful, but by no means comprehensive.

Corrections and additions welcome! Add them to the comments.

The story got off the ground thanks to Ben Grubb breaking it first on Tech Wired Australia. Particular thanks for providing some of these links go to Shaun Garrity, Rowen Atkinson, and elbisivni, twice! :)

First a quick list of links, then some extra content.

One of the best resources was the NSW Photographer’s Rights page at http://www.4020.net/words/photorights.php, where in a very extensive post on photographer’s rights, as well as general privacy and copyright issues, these legal points were raised.

“Unauthorised” photography in Australia has in fact been authorised since the 1937 High Court decision in Victoria Park Racing v. Taylor (1937) 58 CLR 479 (at p.496). This was reaffirmed recently in ABC v Lenah (2001) HCA 63, where the Court ruled that despite the passage of decades since Victoria Park, any concept of a “Tort of invasion of privacy” still does not exist in Australia.

As Justice Dowd put it with blunt clarity in R v Sotheren (2001) NSWSC 204:

“A person, in our society, does not have a right not to be photographed.”

In the comments at Tech Wired Australia, Tom McLoughlin pointed to Sydney Alternative Media, where he discusses in depth and provides correspondence in relation to a specific case where he helped with legal representation.

This response from Stephen Blanks, secretary of NSW Council for Civil Liberties, came after the story had already been published on couriermail.com.au, but it’s important to keep in mind that “police have or can be given special powers under anti-terrorism legislation”.
My emphasis added below.

Normally, members of the public have a right to take photographs and film incidents observable from public places and the police have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record, provided that the police are not hindered in their activities. Once images are recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate them without a court order, even if they think they contain damaging or useful evidence.

However, police have or can be given special powers under anti-terrorism legislation. It takes special knowledge on the part of any member of the public who may be the subject of a demand by police to not film them and to hand over the recording device to be able to work out if the police are legitimately using their special powers.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has received a steady stream of complaints from members of the public over the last few years about police demanding that photographs not be taken, including tourists photographing the Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach.

Stephen Blanks, Secretary NSW Council for Civil Liberties

Other related news links:
Photographers bemused by police warning – ABC Jan 2006
Tourists told to delete APEC photos – ABC Sep 2007

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  1. […] thoroughly interesting fellow named Dave Earley. His Tweets led me to his blog, which led me to an interesting post about who can and can’t be photographed legally in […]

  2. […] Earley has written a useful post about the legal rights of people who film or video in public. It follows my post about police […]



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