Photo Attorney

Oct 4, 2008

Photographer Fined For Taking Photograph of Woman In Public in Scotland

The BBC reports that a photographer was fined in Scotland for taking a photograph of a woman who "felt unwell and went outside [a bar] for air." The photographer photographed her there. The woman got upset and her friends called the police. The photographer was arrested, charged with breach of the peace, and fined 100 pounds. [Note: According to the BBC, "Breach of the Peace" is "a flexible charge, leading to criticism that it is a catch-all offence for police when none other is available."] The Sheriff said the matter "could be best described as exceptionally unchivalrous" and that "the lady concerned was entitled to her privacy and not to have a passing stranger take a photograph."

This event shows how the "expectation of privacy" can differ by country. Compare the case reported in my September 18, 2008, blog for a completely different outcome when photographing someone even on private property in the U.S.

Generally, it is not an invasion of privacy in the U.S. to take a person's photograph in a public place. However, even when people are in a public place in the U.S., they may still have an expectation of privacy, such as when a woman was photographed when her dress had blown up in a "fun house" at a country fair (Daily Times Democrat v. Graham, 162 So. 2d 474 (Supreme Court of Alabama, 1964)).

The lesson here is that it's always best to learn the customs and laws of countries where you photograph.

Thanks to Colin McDonald for submitting this topic.