Hungarian Law Requires You to Ask Permission Prior to Photographing

Hungarian Law Requires You to Ask Permission Prior to Photographing

Street photography and photojournalism has always lent itself to some level of legal obscurity. Photographers must toe the line between creation of art, documentation of the world around them without invading the privacy or infringing on the rights of the people they photograph. New legislation out of Hungary has the possibility of setting the tone for photography law in the EU; and it's a doozy.Effective March 15th, 2014, you'll be breaking the law if you snap a photo without first notifying everyone inside the frame and anyone who might wander into it. According to the Hungarian Justice Ministry:

"[A photographer must look out for people] who are not waving, or who are trying to hide or run out of shot."

This legislation is less a new measure as much as it is a redefinition of previous legislation that gave photographers slightly more wiggle room. This legislation has many Hungarian photojournalists and street photographers worried as it has implications on the photographs they take daily. Mátron Magócsi, a senior photo editor at a news site based in Origo was quoted by The Guardian:

"Having to ask for permission beforehand is quite unrealistic in any reportage situation."

Hungarian legal and civil rights analysts are also weighing in, one remarking:

"This [regulation] is nonsense and in my opinion impossible. I don't think it is going to change the practice of photographing 'normal' people, because they don't have the possibility to ID the person taking the photo, but it's going to be more difficult to take pictures of [public actors such as] policemen."

These new regulations quite possibly could have great bearing on photojournalism in Hungary. If photojournalists, according to the letter of the law, must individually notify and gain consent from subjects acting in a public space, they risk disrupting the situation (a certain photographer's Heisenberg uncertainty principal if you will).

Why This Matters to You and I:

While I do not have any travel plans to Hungary at the moment — even if I did I rarely, if ever, shoot street or reportage — this law and its ilk has the potential to affect photographers at home and abroad. This type of law is certainly not the first of its kind. In fact, in January we covered a Kansas City law requiring professional photographers to register for a permit to photograph in public spaces including parks. That full story can be read here.

The long and short of it is that this new legislation out of Budapest could set the tone for other EU countries. The US could catch wind of this privacy-over-freedom ethos, though the US tends to legislate for photography on a state-by-state basis. We'd all hate to see situations like Grant Legan's Phlearn shoot turn sour with the law (found at the very end of the video). With ever-increasing restrictions on photographers in the public it is frightening that this could become the norm.

Laws governing the practice of photography (protected under the First Amendment) are typically assumed to be restrictive. Photographers often find themselves under fire when photographing in public locations such as streets, subways, and the like. It is an absolute necessity for photographers to know their rights, the ACLU has put together a tremendous rundown of everything you need to know which can be found here.

Have you ever found yourself in a legal bind while in a shoot?

[Via The Guardian]

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Vasco Rola's picture

This means If I go on holidays to Hungary, I can't take pictures in any public places, landmarks and other crowded places where is nearly impossible to clear every single body out of the frame? I can imagine there will be "professional photo bombers" trying to make a living by going deep on photographer's pocket.

Having been there, I'm 100% sure this will happen. There is (quite sadly) a very rampant culture of ripping off tourists...

Spy Black's picture

Maybe the law was enacted to deliberately restrict photojournalism. Either that it's just a revenue generator.

Chris Malley's picture

I'd be interested to know how that would work around popular sporting events such as the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Budapest. I was there for the 2011 GP and everybody had a camera with them, whether it was within the grandstands or the pit lane. Practically impossible to ask every bodies permission in such an environment, but at the same time, how could they police such a legislation if everyone breaks it?

I don't know how the FIA and other organisations handle it; I do know that even a small local football club has an explicit statement in their "house rules" that visitors agree to have their pictures taken. For events like F1 races, I'd assume that the rules are very, very explicit to cover all asses.

Some of the more idiotic regional laws on the topic (Germany) also have waivers that people that are clearly not the focus of an image, that are in a large group, are "significant" public personalities, or taking part in a "significant" event are not covered.

All what you say also works in Hungary. This fuss around the law is greatly miscommunicated.

What Guardian (and PetaPixel too) forgets to mention the Hungarian law has a part that says you don't need any permission when photographing crowds of people.

But most public events like football games, concerts, and F1 too have their own regulations that give a general permission for photography that are completely compatible with the law - it gives the photographer the permission to take photos of anyone participating the event.

These are the regulations for the Australian F1 GP (Hungarian is very much the same):
"Use of likeness
36. Patrons acknowledge that AGPC, FOWC and third parties authorised by AGPC may make, create, store, record, transmit, reproduce or use Recordings and Images or any likenesses at or in relation to the Event (including, without limitation, of Patrons). Unless the Patron otherwise reaches an agreement with AGPC or FOWC, each Patron hereby grants the FIA, FOWC, FOM, AGPC and third parties authorised by them permission to use Recordings or Images, or other images or likenesses of the Patron including sound recordings, in any media (including publication within and outside Victoria, Australia) and for any purpose without identification, compensation or payment of any kind. Patrons can contact AGPC in order to reach such an agreement."

Actually the Australian terms include visitors may not take any photos of the race while the Hungarian site doesn't have this part. As I remember few years ago the Hungarian site told as a visitor you may only take photos for personal use and may not use it for any professional or commercial use. But now I simply don't find any mention on viewers taking photos, just the part similar to the above about everyone may be photographed.

By the way I photographed Formula One on Hungaroring 4 times. First time years ago as a viewer through the fence, in the last three years in a row as an accredited photojournalist.

They also passed ALOT of fascist, homophobic and sexist laws lately... much worst than this one...

Sad really 'cuz Budapest is quite a wonderful city but I doubt people will flock there now....

agreed…if Hungary wants to kill tourism in their country then they've done it because as an avid amateur photographer, I will refuse to travel there...

It's sad to hear this because I had a blast there. The palace transformed in museum is gorgeous and very informative( I knew nothing about hungary before), the park with all the USSR's icons outside the city is quite cool and the Russian baths are exquisite....

If people could declare 2-3 weks without fighting to let the rest of the world visit then go back to punches... that be great!

"...has the possibility of setting the tone for photography law in the EU"

I wouldn't really concern myself with Hungarian laws having much (if any) influence on the laws of the rest of EU :-)

Nicholas Bernardsen's picture

Not as a direct influence per se, but as the first pimple of a rash, that has been gradually infecting the body of the west. The first time coughing blood from a lingering TB infection.

As a general tendency, while the state is putting us under more and more constant surveillance, we are often times stopped from documenting the actions of officials.

Looking at videos of confrontations with the police an officer's first instinct seems to be to stop the person filming, block the camera's view or have the memory card deleted.
What governments, government agencies and officials really don't like is a free press.
Short of formally abolishing it, they can only minimize it's access to information and proof.

now some people starts to rub their eyes and wake up.

Does it need to take that long to discern the real propaganda for war on terrorism ..

now the waves of tyranny is reaching Europe and they don`t want it to be documented ..

I wonder if this is related to the rise of the far right in Hungary?

Nicholas Bernardsen's picture

Stop wondering.
The natural opponent to any far right (or left) government is an informed, educated electorate. The prerequisite for informed citizens is a free press with access to informations.

The greatest enemies of the free press have been the far left and the Muslims.

Nicholas Bernardsen's picture

... your source being FOX new, I guess ...
I know some U.S.A - citizens these days seem to be conditioned to hate "commies" and "muslims", but please try to be balanced.
While I have no particular love for religion of any kind or extremist ideologies it's laughable so single out Islam and the extreme left.
In fascist regimes you could go to the camps for even owning a radio that could receive anything but the government sanctioned stations.
Mccarthyism also comes to mind, the trial of Galileo Galilei etc.
extremism and religion of any kind do not like other viewpoints and try to outlaw their propagation as far as possible.

Fox news has no credibility with me. I get my news from international/local online sources.

What I dont understand is why the legistlation out of Budapest would set the tone for other EU countries? That makes no sense. Yes, Hungary is in the EU but it does not set the agenda for other EU nations. This area of law is also not within the remit of the EU, so there is going to be no EU wide ban on photographying people.

However, there is a chance that the Hungarian law might fall foul of the European Court of Human Rights, which could result in it being challenged.

It's mainly because of the structure of the EU. There have been cases of a citizen in one EU country suing using the laws of another EU country. This is not only a problem for EU residents, but also for tourists.

But this type of law would fall within national competences within the context of the EU. However, the law might fall foul of Hungary's own constitution or the European Convention of Human Rights, where a case would be taken to the Council of Europe. In no context could the Hungarian politicians force the other members of the EU to adopt such stupid law. There is just no mechanism. Other EU members have their own constitutions which this law would violate in various situtions well as also being members of the CoE.

With the widespread use of cameras on phones and other devices the law will be rendered useless. I am not worried and would be glad to stand accused of taking a photo on the street. We can all stage a mass protest by taking photos. Have them round us all up. After the first few tourists are arrested the publicity will shame them into ignoring the law.

1*) There is no clarification whatsoever whether this new egregious law only pertains pro photogs or (even worse) is also applicable to any tourist strolling around and happily snapping.
2*) It should be mentioned that Hungarian laws fairly often border on the legal bounds of the EU framework and get disputed for that very reason.

Once upon a time, Hungary kick out one of its citizen for politic reasons. This boy named Friedmann Endre emigrate in Berlin. Then he fled nazism and became the magnum photojournalist we all know under the name of Robert Capa. Hungary with this law you are again slightly out of focus.

I live in Hungary and this law was created on March 15 which is "free press day" in Hungary. I don't know if photographers will observe the law.

My main concern is that it being a very badly written law, may give opportunities to governing bodies to rule against photo reporters when needed - and even if it never happens, it is another law that may enforce self-censorship. Altogether it is just simply sad.