Photography and the Law



If you are producing Audio Visual shows of your work, and want to use recorded music in them, then the PAGB in June 2010 issued the following advice on copyright:


No one on the PAGB Executive has the expertise to make definitive statements about Copyright law but these, and previous, articles reflect our limited understanding. We hope it may be helpful.

However, Copyright law is very complex and neither the PAGB nor any of the authors accept any responsibility for inaccuracies or misunderstanding that may result from their use.

So far as we can understand it there are three licenses, which are required in order for you to use commercial music in your AV shows – and even then you should be careful about charging a performance fee or an entry fee. Expenses or a contribution to costs seems to be permissible.

British Phonographic Industry (BPI).

Protects the copyright of the Record Company who made the recording.

Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS)

Protects the copyright of the Composers of the music.

Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL)

Protects the copyright of the Performer or Performers.

It is the strong recommendation of the PAGB that producers of AV shows should purchase all three licenses to ensure that they are not breaking the law. Not everyone in the AV field shares this view but surely it is better to be safe, at a relatively modest cost, rather than risk legal action?

For IAC members* the cost of the three licences (MCPS, BPI, PPL) is £7.17. For members of the PAGB and the RPS the cost is £8.54 for the MCPS and the BPI licence whilst the PPL license is only available to IAC members.

*Annual Club membership of the IAC is £40.50 and for Individuals it is £37.50, with reduction for over 65’s. (IAC Membership has other benefits including access to their music library.)


if your on a public right of way – such as a public pavement, footpath or public highway – your free to take photographs for personal and commercial use so long as your not causing an obstruction to other users or falling foul of anti-Terrorism laws or even the Official Secrets Act.  Property owners have no right to stop people taking photos of their buildings, so long as the photographer is standing in a public place (e.g. the road outside).  It is also not an infringement of copyright to “take photographs of buildings, sculptures and works of artistic craftsmanship that are permanently situated in a public place or in premises that are open to the public, except that in Scotland you are not permitted to take photographs of the County Court Buildings”.  However, if your standing on private property and the landowner/occupier objects, then they have every right to request that you stop immediately and ask you to leave if you refuse.

Members of the public and media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.

There’s nothing stopping you taking pictures of people in public places within reason and photographers are free to use their photographs of people taken in public places as they wish – including for commercial gain.  There are no laws against taking photos of children, but someone taking an unhealthy interest can rightly expect to attract unwelcome attention from the authorities.  If someone distressed or bereaved asks the police to stop the media recording them, the request can be passed on to the media, but not enforced.

Police Officers have the power to view digital images contained in mobile telephones or cameras carried by a person searched under S44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, provided that the viewing is to determine whether the images contained in the camera or mobile telephone are of a kind, which could be used in connection with terrorism.  Officers also have the power to seize and retain any article found during the search which the officer reasonably suspects is intended to be used in connection with terrorism.  Officers do not have the power to delete digital images or destroy film at any point during a search.  Deletion or destruction may only take place following seizure if there is a lawful power (such as a court order) that permits such deletion or destruction.

Any officer making an arrest under Section 58A of the Terrorism Act 2000 covering the offence of eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of the armed forces, intelligence services or police, must be able to demonstrate a reasonable suspicion that the information was, by its very nature, designed to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.  It would ordinarily be unlawful to use section 58A to arrest people photographing police officers in the course of normal policing activities, including protests because there would not normally be grounds for suspecting that the photographs were being taken to provide assistance to a terrorist.  An arrest would only be lawful if an arresting officer had a reasonable suspicion that the photographs were being taken in order to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

The following additional information was provided by the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB) in February 2011:


Every person has a right to photograph in a public place and it is not against the law to photograph a police officer undertaking normal duties.  The police do have a duty to investigate incidents which may give rise to suspicion. You are not required to give any personal details unless driving a car or you are arrested. Officers may stop and search and view images if they believe they could be used in connection with terrorism.  Officers have no powers to delete images. PCSOs may not search without a police officer present.  You must be provided with a copy of the Stop & Search slip which will include the officer’s identity. If stopped by a police officer remain calm and polite.

We all need to be vigilant against terrorism and support the police where possible as well as protect our rights to photograph in a public place.