You are entitled to film or take photographs in a public place. In places where you have “implied permission” to enter (for example, shopping centres, train stations and airports – private places where that permission can be taken away from you) you may be asked to stop using your camera.
In the UK, you have as much right to film the police as they do to film you. No one has the right to take photographs or film a specific thing, so you cannot move someone out of the way in order to take a photograph – similarly, unless you’re under arrest, the police cannot force you to allow them to take a photo of you (see exceptions below) and you in turn cannot force them to let you film them. However, contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal to film or to take photographs of the police (unless the footage could be useful to a terrorist) and, in most circumstances, it would be absolutely ridiculous for them to allege that you were doing “hostile reconnaissance” as, or on behalf of, a terrorist.
See “Act of Terror” for some good, visual information about this law!
From the “I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist” website:
“Photography is under attack. Across the country it that seems anyone with a camera is being targeted as a potential terrorist, whether amateur or professional, whether landscape, architectural or street photographer. Not only is it corrosive of press freedom but creation of the collective visual history of our country is extinguished by anti-terrorist legislation designed to protect the heritage it prevents us recording.”
Taken and adapted from “Know Your Rights” booklet:
Video cameras will protect you against false and malicious allegations (from the police and members of the public) and will prevent some of the excesses of police behaviour. They will also help you sue the police and make complaints if you have been unlawfully arrested, stopped and searched, etc. The video camera is your friend and for most protests they are absolutely essential. We recommend recording all exchanges with police, community support officers, security guards, etc. Many activists will not talk to the police unless there is a camera rolling. It is also important to get a lot of general footage of the protest, both before and after the police arrive, to show what you were doing and prove that you didn’t change your behaviour just because of the police presence.
In the past, we have been victimised by the police to the extent that we have had to record the entire protest and everything that happened in order to protect ourselves from malicious allegations. However, the police do not like having cameras pointed at them, precisely because it protects us and prevents them making up lies about us, telling us lies or abusing their powers. They will tell you that you’re not allowed to film them, that it’s a security risk. These things are not true. They may threaten to seize the camera, but they are not allowed to do this unless they believe it contains evidence of a criminal offence.
They may try to physically stop you filming them, but this is an assault. Get this on camera! You are allowed to video the police (and security guards, community support officers and anyone else). However, beware of the following:
– Get other protesters’ permission before you film them.
– Be careful not to use tapes or memory cards that have material on them from previous protests that you don’t want the police to see, in case the camera is seized or you get arrested.
– If you are arrested with a camera, it is possible that the police will seize it and retain it as evidence. It is therefore a good idea, if arrests take place, that the camera-person avoids arrest if possible, even if it means complying with unlawfully imposed conditions. If you are arrested with a camera, it may be possible to hand it to someone else, though the police will want you to keep everything you had on you at the time of your arrest.
– Even if the camera-person is not arrested, the police have the power to seize anyone’s cameras if they believe they may contain evidence of a criminal offence. The police often try to use this power dishonestly to confiscate any footage that might show the police acting unlawfully. Be aware that this might happen.
Social networking sites are routinely used by the police to snoop on activists and gain intelligence. Before posting any photographs, video clips or messages, be absolutely certain that nothing could be manipulated and twisted by the police to look incriminating.
Generally speaking, the less the police, media, etc. know about your life, the better. And, it may sound obvious, but don’t upload photos of you masked up, at protests you don’t want to be seen at, etc.