Back in 2012, the IAC Newsletter touched on the subject of the legality of filming children. Below, Paul Chater takes a more comprehensive look at the law as it affects our hobby. But note his caveats at the end!
Many people in this country do not understand the law regarding the capture of images for cinematography. For many, the law appears to be complicated, whilst others believe they have
rights not to be filmed. In fact, there are no laws that prevent you filming people or objects in public, unless they are in a place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy; in that case, the law
is applied, if the filmmakers release, publish or show their films. Nonetheless, courts rarely uphold the complainant case, unless the filmmaker has gone far beyond reasonable means to get the
Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop you filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.
However, although you have the freedom to film, the Police may use a section of the Terrorism Act 2000 to question your ID and why you are filming. Compliance is always best and the vast majority
will allow you to continue filming.
The Police have issued a statement regarding public photography: “We encourage officers and the public to be vigilant against terrorism but recognise the importance not only of protecting the public from terrorism, but also promoting the freedom of the public and the media, to take and publish
Sometimes overzealous policemen insist you stop filming even when you haven't committed any crime. Beware of this situation developing, because their next stage is to threaten arrest for minor
infringements such as “obstruction of the highway”, or “obstructing them in the performing of their duties”, or they may use the trespassing laws.
Whilst filmmaking, always avoid any aggression or confrontation from any other person, even though you may be entitled to film.
You do need to know, though, when you are within the law and act appropriately.
What follows is my understanding of what filmmakers should know if they are approached by other people:
If someone says "It's illegal to film me without my permission."
You can film people in public places without their consent. There are exceptions, though, so if people have a reasonable expectation
of privacy, don't film them.
If someone says "You have no rights to video me."
You can legally film anyone, as long as you are on public property. The law says there is no expectation of privacy if someone is
in a public place. As such, there is no legal reason to stop you from filming another subject whilst you are in public. However,
they may be right if you are both in a private location as you need to have the promoter's, operator's or owner's permission.
If someone says "You're harassing me."
Filming someone without their permission on at least two separate occasions, on different times or locations, with deliberate intent, can be classed as harassment and you may find yourself in court.
Yet the paparazzi do this frequently and they are rarely prosecuted.
If you're in a public space or have the owner's permission, you're entitled to film people and continue filming people.
If someone says, "You can't use that, you need a signed model release form."
Well, they are totally wrong, because model release forms are not a requirement under English law.
Therefore their comment is irrelevant.
If you have obtained a licence, permit or letter giving permission to film, always carry it with you. (It’s a good idea to have your
IAC Membership Card with you as well—Ed.)
If someone says "You need a licence or permit to film here."
Although you may be in a public place, a licence or permit may be required if you are filming an event where the organisers’
and/or owners’ permission is needed., such as in Council owned parks and buildings, transport stations, church property,
shopping centres, private events, etc. There aresome public places where filming is prohibited, too. e.g. Royal Parks, etc.
If someone says "You cannot film on public transport."
Well, in a way, this is correct; it is the same as with private land—you need the owners’ or operators’ consent. However, Network Rail has released guidelines (see their website) for
photography and video. Although the guidelines don't cover every eventuality, it is worthwhile reading them as well as
reviewing other operators' websites.
If someone says "You're invading my privacy."
In England there are no privacy laws that cover people. Therefore it's OK to film people unless they are in a private situation
e.g. changing rooms, changing on a beach or toilets etc.
If someone says "No video of Under 16s can be used."
Indecency laws cover what can and cannot be done regarding video images of children. There is nothing that prevents you from filming and using the video as long as it is reasonable and doesn’t
contravene the laws.
If someone says "You must delete that."
No one has the power to request or demand the deletion of your video, or your images, or demand you wipe your memory card or tape clean. Any attempt to delete your footage is classed as assault under the law, and confiscation of your camera, memory card, tape etc is classed as theft. A court order/warrant is the only way anyone can insist you delete videos and images; therefore the complainant needs to apply for a court warrant for that action.
This also applies if you have filmed on private land or premises without permission. Unless there is a court order you are
entitled to keep the video images.
If someone says "I'm a security guard—you cannot film here."
If you are standing in a public highway you are entitled to film most buildings and people in the vicinity.
The exceptions are MOD activities, properties, contractors, and airfields. However, if you are on private property and are
asked not to film (this includes signs posted on buildings), you are obligated to honour that request. Stop filming or move
to a public highway immediately.
Nevertheless note: You don't need to produce ID for security guards or give them your address.
Private parties have very limited rights to detain you against your will, and they can be subject to legal action if they harass you.
Threats, detention, and taking your camera are all grounds for legal or civil actions on your part. If any of this happens be sure to
get the person’s name, employer, and what legal grounds they claim for their actions or conduct. My advice is always to be respectful
and polite. Use good judgement and don’t escalate the situation. If anyone becomes difficult or confrontational, think about calling
the police. There is no law stopping filming in a public place.
The Law is constantly changing and none of the above should be construed as legal advice. Always research what you can and can't do and remain within the laws.