Dear Lifehacker, I admit it, I sometimes watch those dubious "current affairs" shows, and it has me wondering: can you request a TV crew to stop filming, and are they breaking the law if they don't stop? And what if a cop asks me to stop videoing them? Thanks, Tabloid Curiosity
As usual, the caveat about receiving advice from a non-lawyer applies here - we don't pretend to know everything about Australia's privacy laws and aren't qualified to offer proper legal advice. That said, here's an overview of the basics as we understand them.
Generally speaking, a videographer does not need to seek permission to record footage of people in public places. As long as there's no expectation of privacy at your location, you are legally entitled to keep 'rolling'.
However, the reality is usually a bit greyer. For example, you'd almost certainly land in hot water if you got caught filming topless female bathers at the beach (which is fair enough really). Likewise, if an uncomfortable picnic-goer decided to dob you into the park ranger, you'll usually get asked to move along; even though you haven't technically done anything illegal.
Dear Lifehacker, Today I had my first run-in as an amateur photographer with a security guard at a local shopping centre (taking pictures of the outside). It was pretty tame but it once again got me thinking. is there such a thing as a single unified list of photographer's rights in Australia?
Some councils and businesses will also impose their own rules that prohibit videos and photography in certain places (public swimming pools and casinos commonly adopt this practice). While they can't charge you with anything for disobeying the rules, they can eject you from the premises and in extreme circumstances, may even ban you from returning.
But from a purely legal standpoint, you don't need permission to film in public and someone asking you to stop doesn't mean you're suddenly breaking a law. If that was true, the paparazzi would be out of a job and celebrities would be a lot happier.
The rules remain the same even when police are involved. However, we'd advise against being openly confrontational with cops about your videographer rights unless you feel like you're filming something extremely important. Butting heads with the law usually isn't worth the hassle.
On a final note, while it's not legally necessary for a filmmaker to seek permission from a subject or heed requests to a stop filming, it's nearly always the smart and decent thing to do.
As professional street photographer Richard I’Anson explained to us in a previous article: "Regardless of what the privacy laws in each country are, I always ask permission before I take a street photo. It's just common courtesy."
If any readers with better legal chops than ours wants to throw in some additional thoughts, fire away in the comments section below.
Dear Lifehacker, I often see home security cameras on sale -- even ALDI has them occasionally. But before I buy one, I'm wondering if it's legal to rig one up. What's the law about surveillance in and around the home, and does it vary from state to state? Thanks, Spyman
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