View Full Version : Legal issues photographing in Australia!

9-Aug-2006, 02:10
Hi folks,

this is only my 2nd post, but I've been reading the forums with great interest for a few months now.

Like most photographers, I have encountered several annoying security guards in public spaces, overstepping the mark in terms of preventing legitimate photography, particularly with large format gear. I've always been keen to find out exactly what our rights and obligations are in Australia, and so I was delighted to find this good article in my local paper today!


Cheerio, Marc

Michael Heald
9-Aug-2006, 09:56
Hello! I presume photograph's of aboriginal land is different? When I was in Alice, some discussion was occurring that royalties should be paid to indiginous peoples on famous photographs of aboriginal landscapes, such as the Olgas or Uluru. Also, wasn't there an attempt to copywrite famous Oz images, such as the kangaroo and the Emu? Best regards.


Leonard Metcalf
15-Aug-2006, 03:08
That definitely depends on the site and the traditional owners. There are many sites where permission has been granted, it is usually sign posted at the entrance to the site. In Alice Springs I found a number of sites that were available to photograph. Public sites that were photography is banned for sacred reasons are usually clearly marked (the camera with a red line through it).

You definitely need a license to photograph commercially in Australian National Parks (both national and federal). Each state or territory requires that you pay an administration fee, show them your public liability insurance, and agree abide by minimal impact procedures. Images of Uluru have had to have been removed from public display. The most notable recent one was by Win Winders who had to remove a photograph of the Olgas as it was deemed offensive by the traditional owners. It was on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. The gallery whipped it down in no time at all, once the threats of legal action surfaced. The restrictions on photographing these sites are incredible, and definitely limit the photographers ability to be creative. It is no wonder people complain.

I often wonder if the only places you can photograph Uluru are to ensure its iconic status. It only looks right from one angle, and this is the main angle that is licensed. The power of repetitive imagery.

There is some debate as to what is commercial or amateur. There have been a number of discussions on making the process of gaining permission easier and quicker. Though amateur photographers were not represented in these talks. It is also unclear what happens if you took the photograph with the intent of not selling it. Then there is also the issue that only images used in Australia can be prosecuted.

Here in the Blue Mountains coffee shops and art galleries have been apparently approached by National Parks and Wildlife to remove photographs taken in the National Parks by unlicensed photographers that were being offered for sale.

If I was to go around Australia, I would need to apply and pay for a license for about 12 different bodies in my travels, probably amounting to a couple of thousand dollars. It soon adds up, not to mention the specific photographic public liability insurance.

There is also a trend to ban photography in public places where people are in swimming costumes, places like Bondi Beach and public swimming pools. There are also bans on taking mobile phones with cameras into changing rooms.

Ralph Barker
15-Aug-2006, 07:24
. . . Also, wasn't there an attempt to copywrite famous Oz images, such as the kangaroo and the Emu?

Wouldn't a model release, signed by the individual 'roo or emu, be sufficient? ;)

15-Aug-2006, 19:23
In future, we may need to pay royalties to houses' owners or city government when we take citycape photo.

17-Aug-2006, 12:13
I found it interesting and refreshing that nowhere in the Herald-Sun's article did it mention specific restrictions to photography "for reasons of national, regional or local security", Which here in Washington, DC rightly or wrongly would be the first reason listed for a photographer's right to make images to be challenged.

Paul Ewins
17-Aug-2006, 15:29
The right to photograph things from public spaces has been upheld in two recent cases. While the most recent one was the usual shopping centre issue, the other one was a petro-chemical complex. The police minister was interviewed on TV and reiterated that the public had a right to take photographs of whatever they want from public spaces. The follow up news report showed the local camera club lined up in front of the refinery with tripods and all.

In places like National Parks and Aboriginal land you technically need permission to enter and thus a permit fee for photography can be enforced as part of the entry agreement. Likewise, in a swimming pool photography could be banned as a condition of entry to the site, but doing it at the beach would require new laws. Interesting to note too that the most iconic of Australin Photos, Max Dupain's "Sunbaker", was taken at the beach. Mind you, from what I understand most of Henri Cartier-Bresson's street work would be illegal nowadays.

Trying to extract royalties for photos of buildings will be a lot harder as a photo of the building is not a reproduction in the sense that a photo of a painting is a reproduction. Generaly the architectural firm holds the copyright to the plans and you can't *build* a replica but that is about as far as it goes.