The rights of photographers when in Australia

posted on 14th of january, 2011

Although these laws come from the state of New South Wales, within Australia, they generally apply to the whole nation.

First when it comes to privacy, unlike the USA, Australia does not have a Bill of Rights, so our laws are going to be different.

In an article by Andrew Nemeth BSc (Hons) LLB MTeach, titled "NSW Photographer's Rights - Australian street photography legal issues", it is clearly pointed out that in Australia the taking and publication of a person's photograph, without their consent or knowledge, but within the limitations outlined below, is not an invasion of privacy, nor is it in contravention of case or statute law.

Privacy advocates may disapprove, but in this country people-photography has always been, and for the moment remains, a perfectly legal thing to do.

As Justice Dowd put it with ruthless clarity in R v Sotheren (2001) NSWSC 204: "A person, in our society, does not have a right not to be photographed"

Wow, how many people knew that! It is the same for permanent structures viewable from public spaces, including buildings and statutes--a property release is not required, subject to other laws!

Limitations on photo rights (Australia)

Just because "unauthorised" photography has not been generally prohibited, it does not mean it's a free-for-all. Far from it! In NSW Anti-Voyeurism, Defamation and Obscenity laws still apply, as do common law doctrines of Nuisance, Trespass, or statutory prohibitions arising out of the Commonwealth Trade Practices Act.

The main point of this article is to make you aware that model and property releases are not legally required in Australian public place photography, except for commercial use. Of course different laws apply to different countries.

Commercial Use

Generally speaking, if you wish to make "commercial use" of a person's likeness, then you need to obtain their consent via a signed "Model Release". If you don't, then you have appropriated the person's likeness and they can, and most likely will, sue for damages.

For the full article, visit:

Comments (2)

Posted by Dprogers on January 16, 2011
Thanks good post.

Kind regards,
Posted by Cristalloid on January 14, 2011
Very interesting!

This article has been read 1440 times. 2 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Erwin Purnomo Sidi.

About me

Undertook a press photographer cadetship way back in the 1970's. Moved into digital media development after 2010. Now divide my time between stills, image composite creation, graphic animation and audio visual product development. Became a member of a few photographic societies in Australia to which my photographic work is assessed. Now undergoing professional development in digital media which incorporates a lot of visualisation, primarily from photography. Recently obtained a diploma in digital media technologies (2015).

Gold Coast, AU

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