Why is taking photographs not allowed in Spitalfields Market?

The IPKat noticed this thought-provoking and slightly worrying post on the popular and prolific blog BoingBoing. A friend of the blogmeister Cory Doctorow went yesterday to the (publicly open) Spitalfields Market, and took an unremarkable photograph (right). He then says:
Right after I took the shot, though, a large security guard walked directly up to me. “We don’t take pictures in here.” “Oh?” I said. “Yes,” he replied, reaching for my camera. “We’ll have to delete that.”
The photographer managed, however, to escape with life, liberty and photograph intact.

The IPKat wonders why Spitalfields Market is taking against having photographs taken, particularly given there is a specific exclusion under UK Copyright law to allow this kind of thing. Since the many commenter on BoingBoing don't seem to have any idea, could any of the IPKat's knowledgeable readers cite any law that would either support or further discredit this view?

Given some of the comments below, the IPKat further wonders whether the recent Met campaign, evidenced by the (completely genuine) poster below, has anything to do with it...

Why is taking photographs not allowed in Spitalfields Market? Why is taking photographs not allowed in Spitalfields Market? Reviewed by David Pearce on Monday, March 31, 2008 Rating: 5


  1. This sort of thing appears not to be limited to the UK. Some time ago, a friend who is a painter set up his easel on New York's Wall Street (on a Sunday, when Wall Street is populated only by tourists) to paint the New York Stock Exchange. A private NYSE security guard tried to prevent him from painting, saying it is not permitted. When challenged, he could of course not cite a good reason but said something about copyright law. A nearby police officer then told the security guard to mind his own business. The painting turned out to be rather nice...

    Another friend (a tourist visiting from Germany) was told he could not take pictures of Wall Street, when he did so near 75 Wall Street, the US-HQ of Deutsche Bank. That guard, apparently one of the guards employed by Deutsche Bank, tried to confiscate the camera, but was unable to do so due to the intervention of some passers-by (who were New Yorkers) who challenged the guard's authority to prevent anyone from taking pictures in a public space. Note that there are no signs anywhere on Wall Street prohibiting either painting or picture taking...

    It appears that some of these private security guards need to be educated better as to their powers...

  2. There is a very real difference between permitting an act and a statutory exclusion that merely means the copyright in the building/sculpture etc is not infringed by taking a photograph of it.

    Theatres (in my experience) and football stadia (always) forbid the taking of photographs, even though they would have no copyright remedy. It's simply a condition of the permission they grant for entry to their premises. I don't see why Spitalfields can't impose the same restrictions (although I can't see such an obvious commercial case for it). In any event, it should only lead to ejection, rather than destruction of the photo.

  3. Indeed. See http://ukpatents.wikispaces.com/CDPA+Section+28

  4. Anonymous has it right. I don't imagine the CDPA has much relevance since even in the absence of the exclusion any architectural features seem to be an incidental inclusion.

    But even *if* one breaches ones licence to be on the property the remedy is ejection or control of behaviour - classic land/tort law stuff. It is hard to imagine even an explicit term permitting the seizure/destruction of images to be enforceable.

    The over-reaction of authorities, public & private, to photography is a developing concern among photographers on both side of the Pond.

  5. If a security guard did seize your camera and delete photographs on it, would this constitute unauthorised modification under s.3 Computer Misuse Act 1990? After all, if the camera's memory card was in a laptop then this would certainly be applicable, so what is different about it still being in the camera (which is arguably a computer itself, just one with some nice optics attached)?

  6. Robert Swift of Linklaters LLP emailed the IPKat to say:

    "The only legally effective restriction I can think of--for a normal public place, as opposed to somewhere covered by, for example, MOD regulations--would have to be contractual. Football grounds and other places open to the public by paid admission often attempt to impose contractual restrictions on ticket buyers against taking commercial photographs. The issue then is whether the restrictive term is properly incorporated in the contract of sale. There were lots of old cases on the point involving railway tickets (e.g. "Sold subject to the Company's standard conditions of carriage, a copy of which is available for inspection at the booking office").

    For a public place with open access such as Spitalfields Market, a contractual restriction would have to be imposed by a suitably prominent notice at each entrance, warning the public that access is granted only subject to restrictions. The restrictions would either have to be set out on the notice, or stated to be available for inspection at an identified location. The issue then would be whether the notice was properly drawn to the attention of the relevant member of the public.

    Apart from the legal position, restricting private photography where there is no genuine interest to protect seems hard to justify. "

  7. Hi, i'm from Barcelona and I may give my opinion from another point of view.
    I understand that, if the building, as architechtural work, is under a period of copyright protection, the regulation you mention refers only to the EXTERIOR of the buildings and works of art that are permanently located in public space, not the INTERIOR.
    If the building is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN, the OWNER, based on ownership rights can set up his/her rules inside it. Like the owner of the Louvre can forbid to take pictures of the GIOCONDA, which is obviuosly in the public domain.
    This is how it would work in Spain.

  8. Sorry, but aren't you all a bit too IP-blind? Isn't the real "reason", security, security, security? Panic-ridden media headlines always highlight that "terrorists" were in possession of photos or plans of future targets and rarely do we get the headlines that "Oops, we made a mistake, he was just a tourist or architecture student".

    Security guards aren't employed to think. Photo=terrorist=No. This most likely has nothing to do with IP.

  9. Being able to take photographs is becoming more and more difficult. In many ways we are starting to have anti-photography laws via the back door. The French are up front about it. Legally the reason usually given is that you are on private property and as such 'they' (the management/owner) have the right to say that you are trespassing when doing something they don't agree with.

    I have had students trying to take photographs of trains/stations told they are not allowed to do so. The National Trust allows photographs for general public but if going to sell have to give their library first refusal. If you are photographing whilst standing on public land you are generally OK. Many large organizations e.g. shopping malls will object to photography.

    It is becoming difficult to take photographs in certain situations. Even going out with students about town or parks have to be careful as some passers-by can object especially if are children around even if we aren't photographing them!

  10. As far as I'm aware, the reason why photos are forbidden in Spitalfield's is because of store owners selling bags etc. being scared of people stealing their designs. How they expect to do this by putting their goods on display in a public place is quite beyond me, as is their confused explanation of how allowing photos would infringe on their copyright. Security reasons are all complete balderdash - as if a potential suicide bomber or other such person could be stopped simply by preventing them from openly taking picture.

  11. I went around taking photos of gaudy Christmas decorations in London last year as a bit of a documentation of Christmas commercialisation.... it weirdly turned into more of a covert operation due to various security-minded people trying to wrestle my cameraphone away from me as I focused in on novelty tinsel. Very strange experience...!

  12. The Association of Photographers has many horror stories of their members in trouble taking pictures in public places. One member was stopped photographing from the road a main London railway station by a policeman. The reason was "security". In Paris one was arrested for trying to phoograph the Eifel Tower. Although the ntower is free of copyright protection the arrangement of lights on top is still protected.

  13. I've been photographing Spitalfields for years. I rang up the 'management' today to ask if I could have the CCTV images of myself and the people I was with on Sunday when I was taking photos - just to get my own back. I'm fairly sure I have a right to do this.

    The phone number is 020 8518 7670. Unfortuantely the management goes home at 16:00 (I phoned at 15:59 & they had already gone... quelle surprise)

    Might make a good story, I'm interested in publishing it. If all of the photographers make the same DPA request we'll get an inyeresting story.


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