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Is it illegal to take pictures of people without their permission?

Settle a Facebook argument! :D
Is it illegal to take pics of people without their permission? A friend took a pic of people on a train, and put it on Facebook in order to mock them! Is that illegal, or just dickish?!

Most Useful Answer JanSt  Sep. 2, 2013 at 14:36

My guess would be a definite: it depends.
Matt mod's a lawyer of sorts; I'm sure he'll chime in later.
I remember press photographers regs from the 80s in Germany where it depended upon number of people in the photo etc, but obviously those regulations applied to commercial use.
Facebook, Twitter etc? Surely the context, comment etc plays a role, also?! Slander? Libel?
We are all just one post away from being hounded as cyber bullies. So caution is definitely the best precaution.

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JanSt / MOD  Sep. 2, 2013 at 14:36

My guess would be a definite: it depends.
Matt mod's a lawyer of sorts; I'm sure he'll chime in later.
I remember press photographers regs from the 80s in Germany where it depended upon number of people in the photo etc, but obviously those regulations applied to commercial use.
Facebook, Twitter etc? Surely the context, comment etc plays a role, also?! Slander? Libel?
We are all just one post away from being hounded as cyber bullies. So caution is definitely the best precaution.

Stelph  Sep. 2, 2013 at 15:08

I think its one of those grey areas, im no expert but I believe supporting it is the freedom of expression and the fact that its not illegal to take photos in a public place, however on the flip side taking someones photo when they dont know about it could be seen as a breach of privacy or harrasment (see link)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photography_and_the_law


TBH its one of those areas I wouldnt personally want to get into since you could easily see someone trying to take advantage of the grey area in the law

matt101101 / MOD  Sep. 2, 2013 at 15:24

No, what your friend did is not illegal here in England. Whether it's morally right or not is an entirely different matter, but it's not illegal (unless there was any harassment or stalking of the subjects of the photo, in which case your friend may well have broken the law).

You're, generally, allowed to film or photograph anything you like here in England, there are very few restrictions. Child pornography, photos which may be of use to a terrorist (there are restrictions on what counts) and photos taken as a form of harassment or stalking are about all that would get you into trouble with the law in this country. As far as photography goes, the law is very open here.

We do have quite strange copyright laws regarding photographs, but they're a civil matter, not a criminal one and are totally unrelated to your question.

an1  Sep. 3, 2013 at 00:38

Often the Police get their knuckles wrapped for being heavy handed towards people photographing them during their duties. There's no law against it, even if the Police like to think so. After all, the recent conviction of a Police officer for smacking someone with a baton which later killed them, was down to a member of the public filming it.

matt101101 / MOD  Sep. 3, 2013 at 00:53

After all, the recent conviction of a Police officer for smacking someone with a baton which later killed them
You mean the officer who was accused of killing Ian Tomlinson? He was eventually (IMO, only because he was a Police Officer) acquitted of any criminal wrongdoing (he was on trial for manslaughter).

Saying that, the Police fired him for gross misconduct and Tomlinson's family received an undisclosed sum of money from the Police due to the outcome of the civil suit. I'm unsure whether this case was settled in or out of court.

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