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NSW Photography of Public Spaces - Any Australian Law Restrictions?

Discussion in 'Criminal Law Forum' started by Greg2222, 21 May 2015.

  1. Greg2222

    Greg2222 Member

    21 May 2015
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    Hi there, I'm an avid photographer looking film more in public places. I know in America the 1st Amendment allowing anyone to film or photograph anything as long as they are in a public space. Is there something similar in NSW or under Australian law that allows the same rights to amateur photographers like me?

    For instance, am I allowed to film or photograph in front of government buildings like police stations, courts or correctional centres from public sidewalks?
  2. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

    16 July 2014
    Likes Received:
    Hi Greg222,

    The short answer is "yes" as long as it is not for commercial use.

    You can photograph people in public spaces without their consent: take a read of "privacy breach - photography of individuals" and "photographing person in restaurants"

    As for buildings and art pieces, photographing these items are exempted from breaching copyright under statute. Therefore, you can generally photograph pubic spaces without breaching copyright. However, certain areas may be prohibited for commercial purposes (e.g. Sydney Darling Harbour, Circular Quay): take a read of "Arts law: information sheet on street photography"
    Sophea likes this.
  3. Greg2222

    Greg2222 Member

    21 May 2015
    Likes Received:
    Thank you Sarah for your response. Just to clarify government buildings including police stations, correctional centres and courts - they are ok to photograph from a public sidewalk?
    thanks again
  4. Tim W

    Tim W Lawyer

    28 April 2014
    Likes Received:
    I agree with @Sarah J - that there is no general right not to be photographed.

    The Arts Law Centre's Fact Sheet to which @Sarah J refers is particularly useful.
    But you have to read it carefully.

    Allow me to suggest a few additional things that may be helpful:
    • Even in a public space, there can still be rules made by the controller of that space
      (such as a council, or the management of a shopping centre, or another public authority,
      such as a railway) that regulate what you can do there.
      In other words, a sign that says "no photography" can be just as valid at law
      as a sign that says "no alcohol" or "no smoking".

    • Not taking photographs can also be a term of a contract - such as when one of the terms attached to a concert ticket is "no photography in the auditorium".

    • Depending on the facts and circumstances, photographing people on beaches
      can amount to offensive conduct type offences. Equally true of parks and council pools etc.
      And not just in regard to photographing children.

    • In NSW, similar facts can lead to offences in the context offensive conduct on public transport.

    • In NSW, it can also be an offence to photograph certain parts of bodies in certain circumstances.
      Which is my circumspect way of saying that "upskirting" is an offence.

    • The amount of ignorance and confusion among private security staff, and even public officials such as council rangers, is significant. Most of them won't understand, let alone believe you, when you say
      "I have a right to take photos here"

    • That said, don't argue with police if they approach you (as they say) to "check your bona fides".
      While I agree with the general principle that you do not have to answer questions,
      you cannot assume that your average junior ranked constable will have a sophisticated knowledge of the law in this area.... so if you argue, or refuse to hand over your camera for inspection (perhaps using lots of big words, or talking about your rights), then they might arrest you on the grounds of preventing a breach of the peace.
    Sarah J likes this.

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