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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 Anonymous Coward

    only outlaws will have still cameras.

    And the state will have video cameras.
    Everywhere.

    Long live privacy!

  • by makubesu (1910402) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:27AM (#37675210)
    they're so into this privacy thing, they barely have cameras anywhere.
  • by xstonedogx (814876) <xstonedogx@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:29AM (#37675230)

    A spokesperson for Braehead said it wanted to "maintain a safe and enjoyable environment" for shoppers.

    There is literally nothing I enjoy more than to have a security guard and the police question me in front of my small child when all I was doing was minding my own business.

    • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:36AM (#37675274) Homepage

      Minding your own business?

      All the art work on commercial packaging in the shopping center are copyrighted designs! You really think you can get away with copyright violations?

      You sir, are worse than Hitler!

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      It seems pretty simple to me. It's their store and if they don't want me taking pictures there I can either just not do it or I can tell them to kiss my ass and leave and never go back. I think it would depend on how they presented it to me. I don't know about the UK but around here there are bunches of stores. I've written a couple off my list and apparently I wasn't the only one. Both stores went tits up after a few years of treating their customers like crap, if you piss off your customers you can't

  • by paulsnx2 (453081) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:31AM (#37675242)
    What about writing in your journal?

    How about making a phone call? After all, someone could hear what is going on in the background.

    How about closed circuit T.V.? The U.K is famous for having cameras everywhere. Isn't that a privacy issue?

    How much of our ability to record the events in our lives is illegal under this logic, and subject to confiscation?

    What if we just remember what we had for lunch? That could be terrible. Can we tweet about what we see? Is it okay to post a description of who you see at the mall?
    • 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.

    • I had a regulator once tell me (in the role of VP of R&D) that I might have to fire my software team and hire an new one to develop the product under proper regulations, since the current team couldn't be trusted to not copy their "unregulated" work. He was about 22, straight out of regulator training school, he was also talking to the whole software development team (me.) We managed to get past that little bump, but the implication was that mere exposure to the "illegally developed code" was enough t

  • by telekon (185072) <canweriotnow&gmail,com> on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:32AM (#37675246) Homepage Journal

    It's not endemic to the UK or Europe. I was told the same thing trying to take a picture in a Target parking lot outside of Baltimore, MD. I didn't think much of it at the time, but what if my car had been damaged and I needed to document it for insurance purposes?

    Furthermore, (and this might be a UK/US discrepancy) IANAL but I was pretty sure all a strip mall security guard could do was ask you to leave the premises. Confiscating private property seems like a torts lawyers dream, IMHO. All you would have to do is refuse to surrender your camera/phone and taunt the minimum wage rent-a-cop until he slugs you, and never have to work again.

    Actually, I think I might spend more time photographing strip malls... working sucks...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sta7ic (819090)
      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 lubric

      • 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 Builder (103701)

          The campaign was fronted by ACPO (the private organisation who advise the police how to enforce and interpret laws) after the Met (Greater London ) and City of London police spent a small fortune paying compensation to photographers arrested and detained under the terrorism act(s).

          I'd not heard of it being such a big problem outside the major metropolitan centres, but apparently it still is.

          Also, in Scotland, trespassing is a lot harder to arrest for in this case. But they could still do him for creating a

      • Malls, including all parking areas are PRIVATE PROPERTY, and the owners of that property can set any rules they like.
        • by rthille (8526)

          Not in the US. There are limits as to what you can do on private property which is open to the public. A restaurant is also "private property", but you can't refuse to serve someone because they are Black, or Mormon, or Australian.

        • by Nursie (632944)

          "the owners of that property can set any rules they like."

          Yeah, not so much. They can't set discriminatory rules like "men only" or "no blacks", and neither can they confiscate your property if they don't like you taking pictures. They can ask you to leave, and take you to civil court over the photos. That's pretty much it.

        • by superwiz (655733)
          Property, as such, means that the owner has the right to deny access to it. Whether the property is private or public is not the issue. The only thing at issue is that it is a property. Once the owner has indicated the access is conditioned on certain terms, you can reject the terms and leave the property. But the owner can't take arbitrary actions as you leave. So the next time someone tells you "you are on my property therefore I deem it necessary to behead you", you can safely assume that they are n
        • Of course they can. Nevertheless, property owners have limited ability to do anything. Generally, all they can do is ask the photographer to stop, then ask them to leave. At that point all they can do is call the police who can remove the person for trespassing. If the property owner has posted signs that photography is not allowed, then they can more or less skip right to calling the police. Still, there is nothing more severe here than trespassing.

          Simply put, shopping malls and stores do not have the

      • 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.

        • 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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Sqr(twg) (2126054)

          Are you sure that they can 'include an agreement to surrender all " ... equipment; film; and other media to Capital Shopping Centres Group PLC or its authorised agents" on breaching said condition.' ?

          If so - can I set up a store in the U.K. and put a sign up at the entrance saying "by entering, you agree to pay me a thousand pounds" and then confiscate the money in the wallets of all those who are stupid enough pass through a door without reading the fine print?

          I know that in Sweden, you can simply claim th

        • by julesh (229690)

          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.

          The precedent here in England is that such terms are unenforceable unless specific attention is drawn to them. See for instance the rather famous comment from Denning LJ in J Spurling Ltd v Bradshaw [wikipedia.org]. A term granting a right to confiscate personal property merely because it has been used in a particular place seems to me to be very much the kind of term Denning was talking about in that judgment.

          AIUI, Scottish law has a tendency to follow English in such matters, so I would presume the case is similar ther

        • 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.

          And when I rescind permission, as for example I always do when some "greeter" demands to see the receipt for merchandise I just paid for not 15' away? The signs I always see say "$PLACE reserves the right to search blah blah", which I interpret to be nonsense. You simply can't reserve a right you don't have. Now if it said somet

        • by codegen (103601)

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

          IANAL, but I'll point out that you forgot to add "this is not a legal advice". You forgot the fact that courts routinely strike clauses in contracts that are considered unconscionable, or over burdening. IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that any court in a commonwealth country or the US would strike down any condition of entry that allowed a mall security guard to confiscate private possessions. As far as I know, the best they can do is ask you to leave (or charge you with trespassing). You also forgot to mention

        • "...and displays these conditions of entry in a place visible to the entrant, the entrant is taken to have agreed to those conditions"

          Now if I conducted a statistically valid survey of entrants to the mall and found that only 0.2 % of them recalled having seen the
          posted "conditions of entry", and that none could accurately recall any particular condition, could I make a case that
          the contract was not valid because it relied on a false model of human perception, attention, comprehension etc. and as
          such the no

    • by jbov (2202938)
      The article did not state that the security guard could confiscate the camera. Instead, the article stated that the officer claimed to have rights to confiscate the camera.

      This is a case of having multiple possible antecedents for a pronoun.

      From TFA:

      Mr White said that one officer claimed that under the Prevention of Terrorism Act he was within in his rights to confiscate the mobile phone on which the photos were taken.

      In this case, the pronoun "he" is referring to it's antecedent "one officer".

    • by Kenja (541830)
      Its like you where on private property or something. Next thing you know they'll be telling me I need a shirt and shoes in order to eat at their restaurant, just because they own it!
    • by Coriolis (110923)
      The security guard called the police, and the police told him they were entitled to confiscate his phone (under anti-terrorism legislation), but didn't actually do it.
      • by augustw (785088)

        the police told him they were entitled to confiscate his phone (under anti-terrorism legislation)

        Which, for the record, he had no power to do, under anti-terrorism legislation, or any other provision.

  • if the people who responded to this actually had some knowledge about the United Kingdom's legal structure.

    Probably not going to happen.

    In Canada, the Security Guard's case would be dubious. While a shopping mall is private property it's not "private" private property. They could legitimately ask you to leave, but not confiscate your property.

    This, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with the case in the United Kingdom.

    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:41AM (#37675316)

      This, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with the case in the United Kingdom.

      Well, it does have one thing in common - I doubt a Canadian (or American) security guard has been given any better (read: significant) training in what is or isn't legal behavior, or what they legally can or cannot do when dealing with a "suspect".

      In America we had Homeland Security people telling photographers, post 9/11 (obviously), they couldn't take photos of bridges because they might be used for terrorism. The statement didn't have any basis in law... it seems they were just winging it. Fortunately some photographers pushed back, and now people know a bit more about their rights when it comes to photography in public spaces.

      If this UK dad pushes back hard enough, maybe UK security guards (or, more likely, their bosses) will end up a touch better informed regarding what sorts of restrictions can and cannot be placed upon behavior in shopping malls.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        It depends a great deal on the state that you're in. I know that the SEIU wants more training for security, largely because it promotes workplace safety as well as giving them more leverage when bargaining for a new collective bargaining agreement.

        Unfortunately, the conditions still largely suck and the licensing isn't anywhere near enough. And I say that from experience, they cover the basics of the law, but there's so much more that one really needs to know. Around here one doesn't require a license at al

    • by Dahamma (304068)

      if the people who responded to this actually had some knowledge about the United Kingdom's legal structure.
      ...
      This, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with the case in the United Kingdom.

      So, summary is you responded but had no actual knowledge of the United Kingdom's legal structure?

    • A security guard has the right to detain you and call police to have you arrested. They have the right to ask you to leave.

      That is ALL they have the right to do.

      They are NOT police officers, though an obscene number of them are power-crazed wannabe-jackboots who THINK they have authority.

      The security guard STOLE the camera. Period.

    • by tyldis (712367)

      Same in Norway. Any private property is considered 'public' if you, the owner, treat it as such. Which means malls, parking lots etc.
      You cannot demand or expect privacy by visiting such places (you might get filmed or photographed by someone without consent - and you can photograph someone without their consent).

      I assume this particular case is a misguided case of protecting the children from pedos and women from upskirt shooters, coupled with a security guard with a God complex.

  • by sirnobicus (1595021) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:33AM (#37675254)
    The security guard is within his rights to tell the customer that he is not allowed to take photographs within that environment, if it is private property. However confiscating the device is opening another can of worms, that would be considered theft.
  • The issue here has to do with various European treaties and the so-called "personality rights." the mall doesn't want to be sued, so they have this policy. Since it is private property, they can make threats like that.

    I don't know about confiscating the phone though.

  • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @12:39AM (#37675292)
    In this economy, you'd think they would all but roll out the red carpet for anyone with disposable income.
  • Braehead shopping centre has changed their policy on the matter and issued an apology to Mr White. There was a facebook campaign to boycott the shopping centre, perhaps it was the power of social networking that put the pressure on them as it has hit 20,000+ likes in a very short time.
  • If I ever find myself in such situation, (And I do not live in the UK) I would ask the officer for the law that specifically forbids me from performing a specific action. Having said that, on several occasions in Australia, I have been asked by security guards in shopping centres to show the contents of my backpack. Every single occasion I have refused as I will not accept being treated like a thief. I have had arguments with security staff and even with managers of the largest shopping chains. On one occas
  • 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.
    • 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!

      Indeed. I am a lawyer too (but not your lawyer!), though in Canada. And up here, while this sort of thing varies from province to province, shopping malls are generally regarded as public spaces, which means that you can't be removed without a good reason. So if you're just standing around, doing something within the confines of the law (e.g. taking a picture), and a mall cop wants to throw you out, you can (attempt to) nail the mall owner for a Charter violation.

  • I can't wait for this to take hold in the USA... stores, businesses, theme parks... they could all just write up a policy and the police could enforce it for them.

    What irony... police officers enforcing a "no cameras" policy in a public place in the UK.

  • by cyberfringe (641163) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @01:06AM (#37675498) Journal
    If this happened to me I would make a big scene, refuse to turn over the camera and also charge anyone who tried to take away my camera with assault and theft. If the mall guards detained me I would arrest them for false imprisonment. People cannot go like sheep. You must fight back with barred teeth.
  • There are already many posts on here questioning whether or not the security guard could legally confiscate the camera. The posts title is be a bit misleading. It is a case of having too many antecedents to choose from for the pronoun "he". The article does _not_ state that the security guard was within his rights to confiscate the camera. It states that the _officer_ was withing his rights to confiscate the camera.
    • The actual law says that to confiscate his camera they'd have to arrest him for taking pictures likely to be used in a terrorist attack. I imagine the court case that followed, and then the lawsuit, would be an interesting gong show.

  • by antdude (79039) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @01:11AM (#37675552) Homepage Journal

    http://www.google.com/search?q=take+pictures+security+public [google.com] , and it will get worse. :(

  • 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 seandiggity (992657) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @02:06AM (#37675958) Homepage
    In a mall in the U.S., I was taking a picture of a "Wet Floor" sign I found funny because the stickman on it looked like he was falling the same way I did when I broke my leg. I was still on crutches recovering from that injury, and some guy from a cell phone vendor booth had the nerve to tell me that I couldn't take pictures in the mall because "believe it or not it's private property". But he didn't try to take my phone, and I just crutched away.

    About a month later, my girlfriend was harrassed in a Canadian sandwich shop for taking pictures of wall art she thought was cute. An employee had the audacity to harrass her (a paying customer, no less), block the exit, and intimidate her into deleting the photos from her phone in front of him. He spouted some nonsense about "corporate espionage". After some very loud complaints by me, the owner of the sandwich chain apologized profusely, disciplined the employee (I think he's actually gone now), and mailed us a gift certificate.

    So, needless to say I've done some reading up on this...from what I can tell, the law does actually seem to be on the side of the fascists because civil liberties have eroded so badly. It's difficult to tell if the situation is worse in the U.S. or Canada, but in both countries there are a number of ways in which you can be legally harrassed for taking photos inside a place of business. However, I don't believe anyone but an actual policeman, federal agent, etc. (not a rent-a-cop or employee) can legally confiscate your property (your phone) or look through it.

    This "OMG no photos" mindset is not only the product of police-state paranoia, it's fed by the ideologues of intellectual property. The irony is that businesses should be embracing the free advertising...many of these photos will end up on the Web in some form, likely mentioning the location, maybe even tagged with that info and the name of the store, products, and other data-mining fodder. Not to mention the fact that cellphone cameras are an everyday reality now, and bothering anyone who uses them in a store makes for horrible PR and customer service in a very precarious sales economy.
  • 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 muttoj (572791) on Tuesday October 11, 2011 @03:35AM (#37676430)
    The Dutch government started a new campaign yesterday asking everybody to take pictures in shoppingmalls when ordinary people spot shoplifters, violent behaviour, etc. With this campaign they try to increase the chance of getting the criminals behind bars. When people take pictures of people doing illegal stuff then the court have more evidence to convict the criminals.
  • Usually malls are private property. Owners generally have the right to dictate behavior on their property. You have the right to forbid people from taking pictures when you allow them into your own place of residence if you so choose, mall owners have the same right.

    Now, standing across the street on the sidewalk, taking a picture of the mall, would likely be a permissible activity from public property. But the law doesn't usually force property owners to allow people on their property to do any specific activity.

    There was an interesting story recently about someone who ran into similar problems at the Mall of America [npr.org], as well.

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