Monday, 9 February 2009

What is wrong with this picture?

As a photographer, I'm getting used to being moved on by security guards, and being told that I'm not allowed to take pictures of things. Submitting images for sale as stock photography requires ownership of the picture, and that in turn means not violating the rights of others when taking the original shot.

Which is fine.

However, the law in the UK means that if I stand in a public place, and take a photograph of the view from that public place, without causing nuisance or distress to others, I am doing nothing wrong. The photograph belongs to me.

Unless that view features the London Eye.

Certain image libraries refuse to accept shots of the capital that include the London Eye, even if they are taken legally from a public place. This is understandable if they are concerned about the threat of legal action from the Eye's owners - nobody wants to expose themselves to that sort of risk - and so the images are rejected.

But are the owners of the London Eye (and other buildings in London) not infringing my rights as a photographer? They don't own the entire area wherein their structures stand, yet I am prevented from selling photographs I have taken of those areas. Some say that there should be no problem if the Eye is "not a prominent part of the image" but how do you take a photo of that part of the Thames where the 135m-tall wheel is not prominent?

I look forward to the day when someone with access to a good legal team challenges this situation. Our rights are just that - rights. They are not privileges, to be slowly withdrawn for fear of opportunist lawyers. Let's hope the erosion stops before we slip into the misery of an even more litigious society.

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