Question about the ethics/legality of photography on private property

Started Jul 7, 2014 | Questions thread
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David Iliff
Regular MemberPosts: 201
Question about the ethics/legality of photography on private property
Jul 7, 2014

I'd like to hear your thoughts regarding photography on private property, more specifically photographing an interior or exterior from a publicly accessible but privately owned location. I've run into this situation a couple of times and I've never been quite sure what the legal position is, specifically in the UK but it would be interesting to hear how the UK compares to other countries.

This is what I understand so far. The owner or representative (security guard etc) has the right to ask you to stop taking photos and consider you trespassing if you don't stop or won't leave. However, they don't have the right to confiscate your photos. So my question is, if I walk onto private property, take some photos and are then asked to stop taking photos, do I have the right to publish the photos (on Flickr etc) that I took prior to being asked to stop? What about using them commercially? I've noticed that a lot of Cathedrals in the UK allow photography for non-commercial use only. But is this legally binding, or is it just a request?

Here's a practical example:

Canary Wharf in London is a publicly accessible but privately owned commercial estate full of skyscrapers. A couple of times, I've taken some photos and have then been asked what I'm doing there. I'm not sure if they are concerned about commercial photographers or terrorists (or both), but usually they've let me continue taking photos when I explain I'm just a hobbyist photographer. But what if I want to sell the photos on say a stock photography site? Does Canary Wharf have any legal claim to stop me? Or is it the case that once the photos are taken, they are yours and you can publish them if you want?

As I understand it, if you've taken a photo of a person, you don't necessarily have the right to publish it commercially without their permission, but does a similar rule apply to buildings, structures, etc in the UK? We have freedom of panorama in the UK so I don't see a problem from that perspective, but are there any other legal positions that could restrict me from publishing my images, commercially or otherwise?


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