Privacy considerations for photography, filming and videoing

The public view photographs of celebrities taken by paparazzi as entertainment and do not raise objections on behalf of the privacy of such individuals. In an ideal state, the free media would allow photojournalists to use their own judgement when such a photograph or piece of film footage should be shot.  

However, some of the landmark cases on the privacy of celebrities have concerned photographs and as such evolved the law in this field. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones successfully sued Hello! Magazine for publishing photographs of their wedding in 2005 and Naomi Campbell’s 2004 privacy action against the Daily Mirror was won after pictures were published of her leaving a Narcotics Anonymous Meeting.

What is the Code of Practice?

For a full explanation of the Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice, see ‘Regulation and self-regulation of the media’ but the parts of the code relevant to photographers (and those shooting film and video) will be listed here. The below clauses are all subject to the code’s public interest exceptions.

Privacy

Clause 3 on Privacy states that ‘everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications. Editors will be expected to justify any intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent.’ Clause 3 also states that ‘it is unacceptable to photograph individuals in a private place without their consent’.

The Press Complaints Commission adjudicated in favour of Paul McCartney and against Hello! magazine in 1998 after the publication displayed a picture of him and his two children lighting a candle for their dead wife/mother Linda inside a cathedral. The statement made by the PCC was that the family had ‘a reasonable expectation of privacy’ inside the cathedral and that this was breached.

On the other hand, pictures taken (with a long lens) of Gail Sheridan, the wife of a politician, in her back garden were not deemed to breach her privacy as this garden was visible from a public road and she was not doing anything private at the time. Thus her complaint to the PCC against the Scottish Sun, which published the pictures, was not upheld.

Harassment

Clause 4 of the PCC Code of Practice, on harassment states that journalists ‘must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them.’ Clause 4 also states that ‘editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.’

Prince William successfully lodged a complaint with the PCC against OK! Magazine in 2000 after they published pictures taken by paparazzi who persistently pursued him whilst he was travelling across Chile.

Children

Clause 6 of the PCC Code on children states that ‘a child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents’ and ‘pupils must not be approached or photographed at school without the permission of the school authorities’.

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For more information on:

  • What are the laws on harassment?