Recording on Public Property - Legal?

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Matthew Hird

21 July 2014
This guy lives in a fortress, very high concrete walls and security cameras recording his own property, which is all good. However he also has two cameras recording the public footpath, including a bus stop and traffic light. How can this be legal? Is there not a right to privacy? Can you record property you don't own under property law?


Hi Matthew,

Generally, anyone has the right to take photos and videos of public places and the people within them, unless you are filming in a way that is offensive or causing a nuisance to those around you. In addition, the Privacy Act 1988 does not cover individuals acting in a personal capacity.

I don't know what state you are in, but in Queensland for example a person has the right to film in public, except:
1. Where a person is making indecent visual images of a child under the age of 16;
2. Where a person is committing an indecent or offensive act in public;
3. Taking of prohibited visual recordings of adults;
4. Where the person is being a public nuisance whilst filming; or
5. Where the person is obstructing police whilst filming."

There is specific legislation regarding the use of surveillance cameras in NSW, however it generally just restricts the use of surveillance cameras to film other private property and in situations where police have warrants to do so etc.

Assuming that bus stops and shelters are considered "public property" there could be basis there for a complaint of public nuisance, however you would need to establish you had standing to bring such an application. You could bring it up with local authorities and see what they say.

Matthew Hird

21 July 2014
I am pretty sure you cant record other peoples children. How can public transport not be public property. No individual owns the bus stop or the people who catch the bus.


LawConnect (LawTap) Verified
27 May 2014
"How can this be legal, is there not a right to privacy, can you record property you dont own."

Generally if you are in public space there is little right to privacy. He can argue that we wants to record people attempting to break into his property which is not unreasonable. Who knows what kind of experiences this person has been through where he/she does not feel safe in his own home. It is not the norm in Australia, but it doesn't necessarily make it illegal. Maybe he has a mental condition.

It is best the laws around video and picture taking remains free and open because the alternative is far worse where you could be sued for simply taking an inoffensive picture at a beach or picnic. Do we really want a society where it becomes illegal to do something like simply taking a picture?
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