Room at the inn for a photographer? Well, there's no ban

Far more people than just the media, hoping to snap chaotic scenes inside UK airports, will be sternly told “photography is banned” in these final days before the Christmas holiday.

That’s because the myth that parents can break data protection laws merely by taking photos of children in school nativity plays, or concerts, is still doing the rounds in some schools.

The legislation in this area is indeed complex, so it is unsurprising that schools are confused, and act defensively, such as by banning such photos outright to remove all risk of a breach.

Firstly, the Data Protection Act (1998) is only part of the picture - yet that in itself causes difficulty because it is based on European law, which fails to snugly fit with the UK system.

Then, there are also the legal doctrines of ‘confidentially’ and ‘privacy’ – but these are covered by case law, not statute, meaning they are developing all the time, and are subject to change.

Finally the picture is completed by ‘information sharing’ - an area that everyone from the media to ‘experts’ have an opinion on, despite those opinions often being inconsistent yet categorical.

Fortunately, the Information Commissioner stepped in this month, with guidance saying parents who snap children for their family album, for private use, are acting lawfully.

The return of common sense? Many people will say so, and I for one certainly hope the season of good will extend to the family snapper. That said, schools are not so relaxed and, like many sports clubs, do like to impose some photography restrictions.

Of course, a freelance photographer taking pictures of children in the play, or event, for commercial purposes is quite apart from shooting family snaps for your own private use.

Still, the ICO guidance indicates that the freelancer would need to get the school organising the event to agree to the photography expressly, and the children and/or their guardians would need to be told, with the opportunity to ‘opt-out’ should they wish.

Chris Webb-Jenkins, of legal firm Browne Jacobson.


22nd December 2010

Related News

Latest News