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Illegal To Take a Photo In a Shopping Center? 544

Posted by Soulskill
from the common-paranoia dept.
New submitter Kyrall writes "A man was questioned by security guards and then police after taking a photo of his own child in a UK shopping center. The center apparently has a 'no photography' policy 'to protect the privacy of staff and shoppers and to have a legitimate opportunity to challenge suspicious behavior.' He was told by a security guard that taking a photo was illegal. He also said that a police officer claimed, 'he was within in his rights to confiscate the mobile phone on which the photos were taken.'"
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Illegal To Take a Photo In a Shopping Center?

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  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:42AM (#37675320)

    I agree with you, and suggest that you head on over to the (ugh, Facebook) protest campaign [facebook.com] and if you have a FB account, add your vote/click/support etc.

  • by Sta7ic (819090) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:43AM (#37675330)
    In general, the *USA* laws say that you can legally photograph anything visible from public property that does not require "specialized equipment", and anything on public property. You cannot legally take photographs of places where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, including in restrooms, within private dwellings, and underneath clothing. Exceptions exist, but the law is far less restrictive than social norms are about photography.

    The UK laws imply that you have the right to apply lubricant, if you brought it, before they violate your rights.

    IANAL, but I have fun with a DSLR, and educate myself on what I legally can or can't do with it.

    In the parking lot, the most the guard has the rights to do is to ask you to leave, and to escort you off the property. The police can escort you off the property, should a representative ask you to leave. Confiscation of cameras in the US is theft. Charges of wiretapping are bullshit, and routinely overturned when some police officer feels threatened by a camera.

  • by unassimilatible (225662) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:44AM (#37675336) Journal
    The mall cop could ask you to leave, and have you arrested for trespassing if you don't, but he sure as hell couldn't confiscate your camera without a serious lawsuit. If a mall security guard tried tho take my camera, I'd tell him to fuck himself. I am a lawyer (but not your lawyer), so just let them try to place their damned dirty ape hands on me!

    Just like I tell them "no" when stores want to see my receipt as I exit the store. Businesses often purport to have rights they don't really have, i.e., "we reserve the right to inspect packages." There is no such right, absent a lawful shoplifting detention.

    Don't be a sheep. Know your rights and stand up to unreasonable and intrusive behavior.
  • by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:57AM (#37675418)

    I don't know that it's theft as such in the UK, but it's certainly not allowed.

    There was supposed to be an education campaign within the UK police force to stop them from pulling this crap, as they've been shown repeatedly to be confiscating equipment without any powers to do so. And a mall cop certainly has no right to do that.

    Taking a picture is most certainly not illegal either. It may be against company policy and may result in you being removed from and banned from the mall, but this is in no way illegal. (If you come back or refuse to leave, that's trespassing, sure.)

  • by Pooua (265915) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:58AM (#37675420) Homepage

    Ironically, Britain is said to have more state-operated cameras than anywhere else on Earth (but it still cannot solve 80% of its crimes). It seems that the more cameras the state uses, the fewer it allows ordinary citizens to use. This may be a manifestation of a psychiatric illness on the part of the some administrators, who have placed cameras into a god-like position that only they are allowed to officiate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @01:20AM (#37675620)

    Seems the mall came to their senses.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-15251848

  • Waitrose Fruit Photo (Score:4, Informative)

    by hughbar (579555) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @01:46AM (#37675818) Homepage
    Extract from one of my recent blog entries

    At the grapefruits, I chance upon some Chinese tourists who are taking pictures of the fruit and conversing. I try some very rusty mandarin, they laugh delightedly and they don't slap me [easily possible because tone-error changes question-mark into 'horse', for example].

    Immediately arrives lady security guard, telling them that they are not allowed to take any pictures of fruit. I remonstrate and ask for her name. She replies [she has an east european accent and perhaps yearns for the good old days, although she is a youngish woman] that she is 'security' and cannot give me a name, obviously not, I think. So I ask for the name of her boss who is 'on holiday'. I ask where he works and she says that he is 'on holiday', not understanding that I want to know whether he is head-office or wharf. Finally I go away with a name, though she might have lied for 'security purposes'.

    I used to admire and give a lot of custom to Waitrose, because of the partnership structure etc. but now, after this, it's demonstrating that it's just another sleazebag corporation with its best years behind it. I have a cooperative card now, perhaps we'll go there for grapefruit photography and purchase from henceforth, forward.

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @01:51AM (#37675858) Homepage Journal
    Re UK: "London Street Photography Festival" - fun to see how many thought public property was also mall like :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJH9F7Hcluo [youtube.com]
  • Re:Private property. (Score:5, Informative)

    by sjames (1099) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @01:59AM (#37675912) Homepage

    Interesting that you say that! It seems there was a fair sized protest on Facebook [facebook.com] (and presumably email). From that page:

    Further to the previous statement Capital Shopping Centres Group PLC have confirmed that they will be changing the photography policy at the 11 directly owned centres and that at the other 3 centres, which owned in partnership with other companies, they will be discussing with their partners the policy change and recommending that it be adopted.

    As you will have seen Capital Shopping Centres Group PLC have issued a formal apology and said that they have changed their policy on photographs and will allow family and friends to take photographs. I do intend to keep the dialogue going with Capital Shopping Centres Group PLC and clarify that this aplies across all of 14 of their shopping centres including The Trafford Centre and Lakeside.

    I don't know how many people participated, but it seems to have been enough.

  • by gmack (197796) <gmack@in n e rfire.net> on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @02:01AM (#37675928) Homepage Journal

    You think that's bad? Just go into your local Walmart with a pen and paper and start writing prices down and time how long it takes them to stick security [google.com] on you. I have just discovered that Tesco has the same policy [guardian.co.uk].

  • by Pooua (265915) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @02:06AM (#37675964) Homepage

    Texas has what is known as an "Improper Photography" law. Relax, those of you who couldn't take a good picture to save your life. This law is aimed squarely at people whose photography offends other people, generally the people who shoot photos of complete strangers. The message seems to be that we don't tolerate street photographers in Texas. Now, that isn't how the law is sold to the public. This is supposed to be an anti-unwitting porn star law. It was born of the need to stop people from photographing strangers in locker rooms, dressing rooms and other places where they would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. However, the law goes beyond that. If you stand at a children's football game and shoot photos of the children, you stand a good chance of an angry confrontation, followed by police investigation. One professional photographer was arrested because people thought he was shooting too many photos of women at a street festival (his case was dismissed). IOW, the people who are being arrested under this law aren't in private places; they are out in public. Most of those arrested people who are now reported in the press do seem seriously sketchy, but nothing in the law would discourage someone from pressing charges against any photographer who shoots photos of several strangers in public.

    In theory, the Supreme Court says that I have the Constitutional right to shoot videos of anyone who is in a public place. In practice, several Texans have informed me that if they see me shooting photos of anyone's children, they will inflict on me significant bodily harm. This law is part of their justification that they are in their legal rights to do so.

  • by Capsaicin (412918) * on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @03:12AM (#37676354)

    IANAL, but I have fun with a DSLR, and educate myself on what I legally can or can't do with it.

    IAAL and you have fundamentally misunderstood what has happened here. Since you like to educate yourself, I'll share some of my precious time ;)

    This is not happening pursuant to any general laws relating to photography, which are probably quite similar in the UK and the US, but under under contract law.

    As I understand this situation... When the occupant (that is the resident owner, or leaseholder) of private property (eg. a shopping centre) sets conditions of entry, and displays these conditions of entry in a place visible to the entrant, the entrant is taken to have agreed to those conditions by virtue of entering the premises. The quid pro quo here is that you agree to be bound by the conditions of entry, in return for an undertaking by the occupant not to sue you in trespass.

    This is, for example, what gives supermarkets the "right" (it isn't a right, you've just given permission) to search your bags where this is stipulated in the conditions of entry.

    The shopping centre in question apparently made it a condition of entry that no photographs be taken by entrants. And this gentleman was apparently in breach. I have not read the conditions of entry, but they may have included an agreement to surrender all " ... equipment; film; and other media to Capital Shopping Centres Group PLC or its authorised agents" on breaching said condition.

    I doubt that this works very differently in the US, the UK or indeed any other common law country, (although there may be some variance as to what limits the various legislatures have set as to what contractual conditions might be enforceable).

    Confiscation of cameras in the US is theft.

    "Confiscation" without a statutory right of confiscation (as some LEOs may have) or the consent of the owner, has been a common-law crime in Britain since at least the 12th century and a statutory one since the 19th, known variously as 'larceny' and 'theft.' Without reading the actual conditions, however, we don't know whether or not the gentleman in question had agreed (albeit unwittingly) to hand over his camera.

    The story, I'm led to believe, has a happy ending, the corporation in question having agreed to remove this onerous condition.

    The larger problem --the privatisation of the High Street and the concomitant abrogation of individual rights this involves --is, in the face of the relentless invasion of the mall, unlikely to be so happily resolved.

  • Re:In Soviet Russia (Score:4, Informative)

    by s7uar7 (746699) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @03:44AM (#37676462) Homepage
    The British government? None. Private CCTV on the other hand, yes, very probably, but that's not unusual in a shopping mall in any country.
  • Re:No. (Score:5, Informative)

    by AmonTheMetalhead (1277044) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @03:47AM (#37676480)
    Actually, reality is a little bit more complex, the owner of the mall is within his rights to forbid the use of camera's within it's confines. However, that has to be clearly marked and the only thing he can legally do is ask you to leave the premises if you do take pictures. He does not have the right to delete your pictures nor to confiscate your device.
  • Re:No. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pax681 (1002592) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @04:27AM (#37676654)
    the Law is DIFFERENT in Scotland you know........ because we have a separate and distinct legal system.
    while you are correct in saying that they might be able to stop you taking a pic there's no chance that a security muppet from a private firm has any rights to confiscate your property.. in Scotland that would theft along with "wilful deprivation of property"
    Also doing so i Glasgow would be a bold move..lol the Weedgies would have yer eye out for less! i asked a mate of mine who is a Lothian and Borders(Edinburgh area) police officer and he said and i quote "that's a load of balls bud, they can't really stop you and definitely cannot take your kit, the force of law is not on their side" he then told me what the security dude could be charged with for taking your kit. Also under certain circumstances if the security "man-handle" you they can be done for assault as well!
  • Re:No. (Score:4, Informative)

    by jonbryce (703250) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @04:44AM (#37676716) Homepage

    Even before that, if you were the feuholder of the land, you owned it outright, whereas the closest equivalent in England, the freeholder, merely has a licence to occupy the land in perpetuity from the Queen. I'm thinking more of the Norman invasion in 1066 which didn't happen in Scotland.

    However, you do still need to get planning permission to do things with the land, and you can still be subjected to a compulsory purchase order.

  • by augustw (785088) <august@kororaa.com> on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @04:45AM (#37676718)

    the UK or indeed any other common law country

    Just a point of information, this happened in Scotland, which, technically, isn't a Common Law country - it's one of the few mixed jurisdictions, like Louisiana and South Africa.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Informative)

    by AmonTheMetalhead (1277044) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @06:25AM (#37677156)
    I'm not saying I agree with the mall owner, but that according to the law, he can and has the right to ask you to leave. That's the only right he has. I'm clarifying this solely to inform people of their rights, if you are ever caught in this situation, they do not have the right to confiscate your camera nor can they demand you delete your pictures.
  • Re:No. (Score:4, Informative)

    by julesh (229690) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @08:04AM (#37677594)

    "Causing a public disturbance" isn't actually a criminal offence, at least not in Scotland. The closest I'm aware of is "behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress", but I suspect it would be quite hard to prove in this case. Particularly as the police have recently received guidance that people being offensive to them isn't in actual fact likely to cause them distress, because accepting offense is part of their job...

    A common-law "breach of the peace" may also qualify, but in order for that to be proved, the offender must be shown to have threatened damage to person or property (or behaved such that a reasonable person believed they were under threat) whereas it was actually the centre owner who was threatening damage to property by trying to delete the pictures.

    Like England and Wales, trespass (by itself) is not a criminal offence in Scotland, so you cannot be arrested for trespass. You can be required to leave, and you can be required to rectify any damage caused by your trespassing, but you cannot be arrested for it. There are exceptions: trespass on crown land, "encamping", and so on, but none would apply here.

    Causing a public disturbance *is* grounds to issue an ASBO, so the photographer needs to watch out he doesn't get one of those. If he does, repeating the behaviour *would* be a criminal offence. But without actually issuing the order before the behaviour occurs, this is irrelevant from the point of view of arresting/prosecuting him.

    So, no, I don't think they had a legal leg to stand on.

    Above is not legal advice. I'm not a lawyer, nor Scottish, but do take an interest in these things.

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