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Thread: Photography and French privacy laws

  1. #1

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    Photography and French privacy laws

    I have heard say that French privacy laws have become so stringent, that you have to ask people's permission even before photographing them.

    Does anybody have any more info on the specifics of this?

  2. #2
    Founder QT Luong's Avatar
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    Re: Photography and French privacy laws

    I don't have specifics, but I remember that once I was photographing in a public market and this provoked a lot of hostile reactions. One vendor yelled that I needed permission, and when I asked why, he told me that was the law. Supposedly, the whole thing re-started when a man was photographed on the street with his mistress, and somehow the wife saw the image, resulting in a divorce. Recently, I also photographed an old-style carousel and a parent began to confront me.

    From my brief research, it appears that (a) the laws were already in place from the early 1970s, but they have been enforced only recently (b) the laws prohibited (any) publication rather than picture-taking (c) there are a lot of related lawsuits. I'll try to clarify with French photographers. What's sure is that the work of Cartier-Bresson or Doisneau today would be impossible to accomplish.

  3. #3

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    Re: Photography and French privacy laws

    A well known photojournalist named Roger Hicks lurks on the APUG Large Format site from time to time and he lives in France. It might be possible to ask him if you can contact him through the site.
    Best wishes,
    Pete.

  4. #4

    Re: Photography and French privacy laws

    Basically, it's twaddle. I have lived in France for almost 6 years, and spent a LOT of time here before that. It simply isn't a problem. Many of the pics in www.rogerandfrances.com were shot in France, on an enormous variety of formats.

    In theory, there is a fairly ferocious 'right to privacy' in France, but in practice, 99.99% of people don't give a toss. Whenever I've asked if I can use the pics -- there's no law at all about taking them, as noted below -- the reply has been, "Of course; they are your pictures." Admittedly, if you run into the 0.01%, you might have a problem, but unless you live in France, what are they going to do about it?

    Furthermore, this 'right to privacy' includes only published shots, and people are only going to come after you if (a) they see the picture and (b) they think you have made lots of money out of the picture.

    By way of additional information, although you are supposed to get a permit to shoot with a tripod in Paris, I was shooting 4x5 inch at L'Etoile (Arc de Triomphe) a few years ago, and the policeman waited until I had finished before drifting over and saying that I really ought to have a permit. After an hour of trying to find the right office, I gave up -- and that's the only time I have ever had a problem, anywhere in France.

    Of course, some market traders get funny. A few -- the vocal few -- are working one scam or another (such as claiming unemployment whike working) or are simply petty crooks; but I have had more grief from market traders in the UK than in France.

    In other words, as in much of the EU, there's an enormous gap between theory and practice, and there's a lot of unnecessary scaremongering from what the French call 'les Anglo-Saxons'.

    (Note: actually, I don't normally lurk here, but as a friend suggested I might be able to make a modest contribution, I joined specially. Hope this helps.)

    Cheers,

    Roger

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    Founder QT Luong's Avatar
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    Re: Photography and French privacy laws

    Roger, thanks for your perspective. I can recall a half-dozen instances where I was harassed in Paris for using a tripod, and in most of them, the guard/policeman would not let me finish the shoot. But then, this also happed in SF and LA, and to put it in context, I've done thousands of images in Paris on a tripod.

  6. #6

    Re: Photography and French privacy laws

    Thanks for popping in Roger and let me say I've enjoyed your articles for years and also have some of your books.

    joe

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    Re: Photography and French privacy laws

    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
    snip

    In other words, as in much of the EU, there's an enormous gap between theory and practice, and there's a lot of unnecessary scaremongering from what the French call 'les Anglo-Saxons'.


    Roger
    Well, you hit the nail on the head

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    Re: Photography and French privacy laws

    Thank you all for your responses. As I had hoped, it is the same distinction, more or less, that applies in the US, namely that the real restriction is on publishing, not the taking of the photograph.

    I need to know for this class I am teaching there, because I do not want to have my students get into scuffles or even trouble.

  9. #9
    Founder QT Luong's Avatar
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    Re: Photography and French privacy laws

    The French photographers I asked confirmed that restrictions are about publishing, not photographing, but that distinction is not something that is well understood by the public.
    There are also common misconceptions about the value of photography and the fact that if you are the subject of a photo that was lucrative, you are due something.
    The trend in the courts seem to put the burden on the plaintif to prove that the publication of the photographs is harmful to them.

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    Re: Photography and French privacy laws

    If I can add my 0,02 euros to a discussion where I'm glad to read the contributions of Roger Hicks (BTW, I did not suspect that one of my favourite authors of photo books was a francophile ;-)
    -----
    There has been in Paris an interesting case ruled in favor of the photographer in the last years.
    The photographer, Luc Delahaye, took not-so-candid portraits of people in the Paris metro railway.
    People going to work in the morning, not always smiling, on the contrary.
    The work was published and some people who recognised themselves tried to sue the photographer and they lost.
    The arguments are what Tuan says, the people have to prove that taking & publishing a picture of themselves was detrimental to them.
    Read more (in French) here, an excellent paper by le Figaro
    http://www.lefigaro.fr/culture/20070...en_breche.html

    An interesting note in this case is that French judges referred to the European law (article 10 of the European Chart for Human rights granting the rights to journalists to freely publish) ruling against the French law (I quote Le Figaro) :
    Le tribunal avait alors fait primer le droit à l'information garanti par l'article 10 de la convention européenne des droits de l'homme sur l'article 9 du code civil. Un retournement.

    Have a good time and enjoy a really funny automatic translation here (Roger Hocks will appreciate since I can't imagine that he does not speak nor understand a traitor word of French as we say in France
    http://www.google.com/translate?u=ht...&hl=fr&ie=UTF8

    -------------------

    About the use of a tripod in Paris, the situation is very different from taking the portraits of people. The issue is complex and I have already tried to clarify things in another thread. Not sure I've succeded
    http://www.largeformatphotography.in...d.php?p=201403

    I have started a thread on the French LF forum wher regular updates come up, but of course the discussion is in French.
    http://www.galerie-photo.info/forum/...161#reply_9153
    Basically no tripod authorisation is required in Paris to take pictures from the public domain. However publishing them is another issue.
    The other problem is : what is the public domain in Paris ?
    For example, the Tuileries gardens near le Louvre are submitted to an authorisation & fee. The tripod is only there to prove that you are a professionnaland ; so you should prove that that you actually have the clearance and have paid the fee
    Zillions of tourist freely take pictures with their digital compact cameras near Le Louvre, but if you come with the same camera on a tripod, you'll be forbidden to do it.
    So I know people disguised as regular tourists shooting hand-held with their Alpa 12 instead of unfolding a tripod and a LF camera
    In the Tuileries gardens, only students in photography or researchers can get a free tripod permit !
    If this is so, we are all students & researchers !! ;-)
    The official web page with fees to be applied at le Louvre and Tuileries gardens... start page 18 and be prepared...
    http://www.louvre.fr/media/repositor...9831201852.pdf

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