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]