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Thread: Laws governing public photography

  1. #61
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    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Quote Originally Posted by chocmuffins View Post
    My definition of public place would be somewhere people can walk in freely without specific permission. Open shopping mall is public, whereas closed (after hours) shopping mall is likely not public.

    What's your definition of public place?

    Wikipedia have definition on public space, but founder said don't quote it without consulting other sources. So the definition there may or may not apply to Singapore.
    I regret to say you may end up on a lot of private property and still consider them public places.

    Case in point, walk into wheelock place to shoot the inverted cone structure from the inside and you will likely get stopped by the security guard. The building has its management and its own set of rules that one has to adhere to when within its compound.

  2. #62
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    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Yeah, I guess that's just how things are run here...

    Let me try VAL and pocket next time, see whether got guards stopping.
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  3. #63
    vince123123
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    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    One good workaround is on the roads. Roads and pavements are likely to be considered as public areas and taking photographs while you're standing on a public road or walkway should be more or less immune.

    Quote Originally Posted by catchlights View Post
    what vince123123 said is correct.

    In Singapore here, I don't think we have any public place here, and many areas are state property if you are not aware.

    So if someone tell you that you can't shoot here or there, don't get too upset.

  4. #64

    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Quote Originally Posted by vince123123 View Post
    A public place is one which is not owned by any private entity. A private place that is opened for public access, is not a public place.
    Ahh unfortunately still not clearer.

    For example US the public areas of privately owned malls you have full rights to take photos - the management may NOT stop you.

    I do believe the rules here are different but no-one seems to be able to state example or precedent.

    The summary given earlier - in Singapore airports and utilities are protected places so you can't photograph them from outside either - again different to US / UK.

    Nice debate though all - pity about the lack of actual stated position - i will retire in defeat and try and extract info maybe from a lawyer who actually knows.

  5. #65
    vince123123
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    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Since you appear to know the US position, can you state the examples or precedents in the US, US federal statutes or case law which support your assertion of the position under US law?

    You have not stated these either?

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Blue One View Post
    Ahh unfortunately still not clearer.

    For example US the public areas of privately owned malls you have full rights to take photos - the management may NOT stop you.

    I do believe the rules here are different but no-one seems to be able to state example or precedent.

    The summary given earlier - in Singapore airports and utilities are protected places so you can't photograph them from outside either - again different to US / UK.

    Nice debate though all - pity about the lack of actual stated position - i will retire in defeat and try and extract info maybe from a lawyer who actually knows.

  6. #66

    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Hi all,

    Seeing the interest in this topic I decided to do some cursory research into Singapore laws concerning Photography.

    It is misleading to query whether photographers have a right to take photos because such a question seems to imply that there is a substantive legal rule that must be found as the basis for that right. But there are no such explicit rights. Singapore’s legal system is based on the British common law system. The fundamental principle is that anything that is not prohibited is permitted. For example, nobody would begrudge you the ‘right’ to take a photo of yourself in your own house.

    There are, however, several legal restrictions on the taking of photographs:

    (a) People. When you take photographs of strangers or of property belonging to strangers, it could amount to harassment. Unlike other jurisdictions such as the UK, Singapore does not have legislation regarding harassment, but the tort of harassment has been recognised in the case of Malcomson v Narseh Kumar Mehta [2001] 4 SLR 454. Having said that, it is unlikely that taking a photo would amount to harassment because the legal requirement is that there must be ‘a course of conduct that causes alarm and not a single incident’. As far as I know Singapore does not have any other privacy laws.

    (b) Private property. Owners of private property cannot stop you from taking photos of their property from public areas (unless it amounts to harassment as described above). If you are in private property such as a shopping centre, the owner of the private property can exercise control over the terms of entry. For example, many museums and concert venues impose a prohibition on photography as one of the terms of entry into the premises. If you ignore those prohibitions or enter the property without permission, you may be liable in trespass.

    Note, however, that in both instances (a) and (b) your digital images remain strictly your own property and others cannot compel you to delete your digital files or hand it over to them. If they take it by force, you have a legal course of action against them through the tort of conversion.

    (c) It is best not to venture into military bases, restricted areas of airports etc where you may fall foul of the Official Secrets Act. Section 4(1) states that “any person who within a prohibited place has any apparatus for taking or making photographs in his possession without a permit in writing in that behalf signed by the competent authority shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $200. Your camera may also be seized. See section 4(2).

    (d) You cannot take a photograph inside a court. That is why you never ever see pictures of criminals undergoing trial.

    (e) Check pornography laws (Penal Code, section 292(a)) if you are into nudes.

    Thats all for now, feel free to raise questions or comments

  7. #67
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    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Blue One View Post
    Ahh unfortunately still not clearer.

    For example US the public areas of privately owned malls you have full rights to take photos - the management may NOT stop you.

    I do believe the rules here are different but no-one seems to be able to state example or precedent.

    The summary given earlier - in Singapore airports and utilities are protected places so you can't photograph them from outside either - again different to US / UK.

    Nice debate though all - pity about the lack of actual stated position - i will retire in defeat and try and extract info maybe from a lawyer who actually knows.
    haha...u can set a precedent...

    actually the stated position was there. No property is public property in fact, except for roads and access roads, water ways, etc...

    almost every building, park, property is owned by someone, be it privately, state-owned or state-controlled entity. as such, these properties are not considered to be public though they may be open for public access but such access is granted upon condition that you adhere to their terms and they have every right to evict you from the property.

    public places such as roads, rivers are fair game for taking shots at private properties but it is not really enshrined in the laws, i believe.

    however, i am always happy to hear an extract from a lawyer who knows....
    G

  8. #68
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    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Quote Originally Posted by xtradot View Post
    Hi all,

    Seeing the interest in this topic I decided to do some cursory research into Singapore laws concerning Photography.

    It is misleading to query whether photographers have a right to take photos because such a question seems to imply that there is a substantive legal rule that must be found as the basis for that right. But there are no such explicit rights. Singapore’s legal system is based on the British common law system. The fundamental principle is that anything that is not prohibited is permitted. For example, nobody would begrudge you the ‘right’ to take a photo of yourself in your own house.

    There are, however, several legal restrictions on the taking of photographs:

    (a) People. When you take photographs of strangers or of property belonging to strangers, it could amount to harassment. Unlike other jurisdictions such as the UK, Singapore does not have legislation regarding harassment, but the tort of harassment has been recognised in the case of Malcomson v Narseh Kumar Mehta [2001] 4 SLR 454. Having said that, it is unlikely that taking a photo would amount to harassment because the legal requirement is that there must be ‘a course of conduct that causes alarm and not a single incident’. As far as I know Singapore does not have any other privacy laws.

    (b) Private property. Owners of private property cannot stop you from taking photos of their property from public areas (unless it amounts to harassment as described above). If you are in private property such as a shopping centre, the owner of the private property can exercise control over the terms of entry. For example, many museums and concert venues impose a prohibition on photography as one of the terms of entry into the premises. If you ignore those prohibitions or enter the property without permission, you may be liable in trespass.

    Note, however, that in both instances (a) and (b) your digital images remain strictly your own property and others cannot compel you to delete your digital files or hand it over to them. If they take it by force, you have a legal course of action against them through the tort of conversion.

    (c) It is best not to venture into military bases, restricted areas of airports etc where you may fall foul of the Official Secrets Act. Section 4(1) states that “any person who within a prohibited place has any apparatus for taking or making photographs in his possession without a permit in writing in that behalf signed by the competent authority shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $200. Your camera may also be seized. See section 4(2).

    (d) You cannot take a photograph inside a court. That is why you never ever see pictures of criminals undergoing trial.

    (e) Check pornography laws (Penal Code, section 292(a)) if you are into nudes.

    Thats all for now, feel free to raise questions or comments
    Thank you very very much for this in-depth analysis.

  9. #69
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    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Quote Originally Posted by xtradot View Post
    Hi all,

    Seeing the interest in this topic I decided to do some cursory research into Singapore laws concerning Photography.
    Thanks for the comprehensive list!
    Last edited by Daedalus Trent; 13th November 2008 at 05:35 PM. Reason: saving space on the thread xD

  10. #70

    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Quote Originally Posted by xtradot View Post
    Hi all,

    Seeing the interest in this topic I decided to do some cursory research into Singapore laws concerning Photography.
    Very nicely done. Was wondering about laws regarding street photography--never knew where to find the relevant information. Thanks. Now, the next question is what constitute harassment.

    Harassment, alarm or distress
    13B. —(1) Any person who in a public place or in a private place —

    (a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour; or

    (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

    within the hearing or sight of any person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $2,000.
    [12/96]

    (2) It is a defence for the accused to prove —

    (a) that he had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress;

    (b) that he was inside a dwelling-house and had no reason to believe that the words or behaviour used, or the writing, sign or other visible representation displayed, would be heard or seen by a person outside that dwelling-house or any other dwelling-house; or

    (c) that his conduct was reasonable.
    I don't think that photographing someone 3 meters away can be construe as harassment from this. Unless you consider pointing a camera at someone as threatening--could be, if you're using a D3.
    Last edited by edge-t; 13th November 2008 at 05:43 PM.

  11. #71
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    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Quote Originally Posted by xtradot View Post
    Hi all,

    Seeing the interest in this topic I decided to do some cursory research into Singapore laws concerning Photography.

    It is misleading to query whether photographers have a right to take photos because such a question seems to imply that there is a substantive legal rule that must be found as the basis for that right. But there are no such explicit rights. Singapore’s legal system is based on the British common law system. The fundamental principle is that anything that is not prohibited is permitted. For example, nobody would begrudge you the ‘right’ to take a photo of yourself in your own house.

    There are, however, several legal restrictions on the taking of photographs:

    (a) People. When you take photographs of strangers or of property belonging to strangers, it could amount to harassment. Unlike other jurisdictions such as the UK, Singapore does not have legislation regarding harassment, but the tort of harassment has been recognised in the case of Malcomson v Narseh Kumar Mehta [2001] 4 SLR 454. Having said that, it is unlikely that taking a photo would amount to harassment because the legal requirement is that there must be ‘a course of conduct that causes alarm and not a single incident’. As far as I know Singapore does not have any other privacy laws.

    (b) Private property. Owners of private property cannot stop you from taking photos of their property from public areas (unless it amounts to harassment as described above). If you are in private property such as a shopping centre, the owner of the private property can exercise control over the terms of entry. For example, many museums and concert venues impose a prohibition on photography as one of the terms of entry into the premises. If you ignore those prohibitions or enter the property without permission, you may be liable in trespass.

    Note, however, that in both instances (a) and (b) your digital images remain strictly your own property and others cannot compel you to delete your digital files or hand it over to them. If they take it by force, you have a legal course of action against them through the tort of conversion.

    (c) It is best not to venture into military bases, restricted areas of airports etc where you may fall foul of the Official Secrets Act. Section 4(1) states that “any person who within a prohibited place has any apparatus for taking or making photographs in his possession without a permit in writing in that behalf signed by the competent authority shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $200. Your camera may also be seized. See section 4(2).

    (d) You cannot take a photograph inside a court. That is why you never ever see pictures of criminals undergoing trial.

    (e) Check pornography laws (Penal Code, section 292(a)) if you are into nudes.

    Thats all for now, feel free to raise questions or comments
    woah....sounds well-researched...
    G

  12. #72

    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Its good to try to understand what's involved, but make sure you don't get the wrong information and get mislead into doing the wrong thing, thinking you have the 'right'.

    Law can be difficult to interpret and understand, and then to put into practice is yet another different matter again.

    On the streets, take any photos you want except pictures of protected places, embassies, key installations and military bases. You may argue you have the right to photograph, but will our country and the involved country's embassy risk having spying activities done? You never know what you are getting into. If you look for trouble, you probably will get it and regret it.

    If you cause distress to another person, stop. Be nice. If asked to delete the photos, make a decision, if you want to keep the photo, you may need help from a neutral party to explain you have the right to your photos. Maybe the Police can help. But remember the person might also complain that you caused harassment, but whether the complaint is valid or not, its another issue, depending on what you did. If you don't want those hassle, just delete the photos in front of that person, go home and try recover it with some of those recovery programs.

    In private properties, respect the decision and requests of the management and its staff including the poor security guard, they are the host and you are the guest.

    If things turned bad and the authorities, like the Police get involved, whether you called or someone else called, know that our local Police is fair and trustable.

    If they asked for your cooperation and your details, give it, especially if you are caught in the protected place scenario or another person complained against you for photographing them, etc. Unless you got something to hide. Trying to be a smartA and questioning what right does they have might raise their suspicion and get you deeper into the shithole.

    You want a photograph or an investigation against you?
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  13. #73
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    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Quote Originally Posted by tutumakbuk View Post
    I've not seen any kind of guidelines in any form on such OB markers.

    I take a leaf from HK - when it does NOT say no u-turn, you can do so. If you cannot do a u-turn, there will be a sign saying so.

    Likewise, if there is no "no photography" sign, I just go for it within limits of decency and privacy. Also, as a rule of thumb for myself, people are usually less receptive of their photos being taken at close range and in crowded places, e.g. in trains and buses.

    Then again, in places like car shows where many "shooters" are present, one should expect to be "shot".

    It all boils down to some give and take on both the photographer and the (unintended) subjects.
    I am sad to say that Singapore is doing it the other way round. They will put sign to tell you if its permitted...... otherswise...... its will be a 'fine' day.......
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  14. #74
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    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    First of all thank you very much for these detailed explanations.
    Quote Originally Posted by xtradot View Post
    (b) Private property. Owners of private property cannot stop you from taking photos of their property from public areas (unless it amounts to harassment as described above). If you are in private property such as a shopping centre, the owner of the private property can exercise control over the terms of entry. For example, many museums and concert venues impose a prohibition on photography as one of the terms of entry into the premises. If you ignore those prohibitions or enter the property without permission, you may be liable in trespass.

    Note, however, that in both instances (a) and (b) your digital images remain strictly your own property and others cannot compel you to delete your digital files or hand it over to them. If they take it by force, you have a legal course of action against them through the tort of conversion.

    This clause should be a standard lesson for all over-eager security guards in business district. Some weeks ago when I was shooting with friends in business district some guards came around asking us to stop taking pictures of a certain building from outside. I had the feeling that this request was 'bovine excrement' but I didn't know it exactly. With these explanations now it becomes clear. Thanks mate!

  15. #75

    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    That's exactly the problem. What's the point of having rights if you can't rely on them. If you have to back down despite being in the right?

    The problem is that there's no ACLU-equivalent here to help people whose constitutional rights are violated.

    Quote Originally Posted by sjackal View Post
    If they asked for your cooperation and your details, give it, especially if you are caught in the protected place scenario or another person complained against you for photographing them, etc. Unless you got something to hide. Trying to be a smartA and questioning what right does they have might raise their suspicion and get you deeper into the shithole.

    You want a photograph or an investigation against you?

  16. #76

    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Quote Originally Posted by waileong View Post
    That's exactly the problem. What's the point of having rights if you can't rely on them. If you have to back down despite being in the right?

    The problem is that there's no ACLU-equivalent here to help people whose constitutional rights are violated.
    Hahaha, here we come into something that differs from individual to individual.

    To some being right is most important and they will fight to their death and their families' death to defend it. (Read political tragedies in some civil war torn countries)

    And to some, going home to the family at the end of the day and watching TV together worry free is more important.
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  17. #77

    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    I think you're mistaken. You can only talk about "rights" when society has evolved sufficiently to document what "rights" are. So any battles would be fought in court, not on the battlefield.


    Civil wars happen for many reasons, ranging from desires for independence and autonomy to plain warlord-backed territorial conflict. Hardly any civil rights come into the picture.

    Quote Originally Posted by sjackal View Post
    Hahaha, here we come into something that differs from individual to individual.

    To some being right is most important and they will fight to their death and their families' death to defend it. (Read political tragedies in some civil war torn countries)

    And to some, going home to the family at the end of the day and watching TV together worry free is more important.

  18. #78

    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    I'm glad to be of help! =)

    Some additional points:

    Clearly you can take photos of private property from outside the premises (unless the action of taking photos constitutes harassment, outrages the modesty of the subject or the property itself is a restricted area). Otherwise, one would need to get the permission of every building owner in the CBD simply to take a picture of our city skyline. That is obviously not the case heh.

    Of course you can vindicate your rights. The main problem is that it is usually not practical or cost-effective to do so. Ultimately, rights are manifested in a court of law. And this is an expensive route that involves hiring a lawyer and paying legal and court fees (money which put be put to better use towards satisfying lens lust ha~) assuming that you have a course of action in the first place.

    So, like others have said, it may be wise to give way when dealing with pesky security guards or strangers who don’t fancy having their photo taken. It is best to settle such small disputes amicably. Afterall, doing something that is legal may nevertheless be offensive to other people. If photographers keep being too intrusive, behaving as if they are paparazzi, then eventually the general public’s perception of photographers would become negative, and opportunities for street photography would diminish.

    Perhaps the most important thing for photographers to know is that the law does protect your property in your photos in the same way that it protects your ownership of a car or painting etc.

  19. #79

    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Quote Originally Posted by waileong View Post
    I think you're mistaken. You can only talk about "rights" when society has evolved sufficiently to document what "rights" are. So any battles would be fought in court, not on the battlefield.


    Civil wars happen for many reasons, ranging from desires for independence and autonomy to plain warlord-backed territorial conflict. Hardly any civil rights come into the picture.
    I guess I had lead you to drift too far away from main topic.
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  20. #80

    Default Re: Laws governing public photography

    Quote Originally Posted by xtradot View Post
    I'm glad to be of help! =)

    Some additional points:

    Clearly you can take photos of private property from outside the premises (unless the action of taking photos constitutes harassment, outrages the modesty of the subject or the property itself is a restricted area). Otherwise, one would need to get the permission of every building owner in the CBD simply to take a picture of our city skyline. That is obviously not the case heh.

    Of course you can vindicate your rights. The main problem is that it is usually not practical or cost-effective to do so. Ultimately, rights are manifested in a court of law. And this is an expensive route that involves hiring a lawyer and paying legal and court fees (money which put be put to better use towards satisfying lens lust ha~) assuming that you have a course of action in the first place.

    So, like others have said, it may be wise to give way when dealing with pesky security guards or strangers who don’t fancy having their photo taken. It is best to settle such small disputes amicably. Afterall, doing something that is legal may nevertheless be offensive to other people. If photographers keep being too intrusive, behaving as if they are paparazzi, then eventually the general public’s perception of photographers would become negative, and opportunities for street photography would diminish.

    Perhaps the most important thing for photographers to know is that the law does protect your property in your photos in the same way that it protects your ownership of a car or painting etc.
    This post is golden, sums up nicely.
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