Apr 23, 2010

Photographers and their rights

Further to the discussion around the unfairness of the copyright grab by Tourism Australia, comes this interesting article regarding the rights of photographers for shooting in public spaces, courtesy of Onlineopinion.com.au

While I can somewhat understand the issue around using/exploiting public spaces and buildings for commercial purposes, it gets really hazy when we start to talk about what's permissible at all.  Many of these regulations are not really specific whether an image uploaded to Facebook or Redbubble are breaching their guidelines/laws.

One of the things that really surprised me is that Waverly Council in Sydney requires a permit for any filming and photography undertaken in their public open spaces.  What?  I need a permit of up to $300 to take snaps of family or friends at Bondi or Centennial Park?  Not surprisingly the actual wording and terms of the permit are completely hazy and makes no distinction between commercial and private use.

Activities requiring permit
You will need a permit to engage in any of the following activities:
  • Film and photography
  • Organised sport
  • Picnics or other informal gatherings of over 50 people
  • Wedding ceremonies
  • Erection of any structures, including marquees, jumping castles, etc
  • Use of any equipment, including barbecues, public address systems, scaffolding, etc
  • Corporate promotion, product sale, charity events
  • Fitness training: please see Fitness Groups & Personal Trainers Policy
Please note that users of Council property can be asked by Council officers to produce a valid permit.
Even the famously restrictive Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority seems to allow commercial photography in most areas around the harbour without a permit as long as you have under 10 crew members and only use handheld or a tripod.  This is fine for the weekend gaggle of wedding photographers - but the more interesting aspect is that they might not realise that having the Opera House or Harbour Bridge as the backdrop for that shot is probably breaching copyright - a different conversation altogether.

And finally, if a wedding photographer thought that they could go anywhere in Sydney Olympic Park and take a few shots, they could do it free of charge.   Oh, sorry, as long as you apply in writing and pay a $500 bond!

The Arts Law Centre of NSW have more detailed information on what rights we actually have as street photographers right here.  It seems to imply that some of the regulations that local councils and authorities try to implement are apparently not completely binding.