Want to take a picture? You'll need a permit

 

Start taking pictures at the IFSC and security staff on Segways might intervene – and it isn’t the only location where photographers need permission

THE UK has seen a surge of reports of photographers being stopped from photographing, largely down to anti-terrorism laws or over-zealous police officers and security guards. In April, two Austrian tourists were told by London police that photographing public transport was “strictly forbidden”. The officers demanded that the pictures be deleted. Amateur photographers and train-spotters, as well as photojournalists, have all told similar stories, and Ireland does not seem to be immune.

In the last year or more, the subject has become a recurring topic on the photography section of the Irish internet discussion site, boards.ie. If you visit Dublin’s IFSC area with a camera, for instance, be ready to be approached by a security guard on a two-wheeled Segway vehicle. “I was just wandering around during my lunch break taking a few photos when I was approached by the guy on the Segway,” says Brian O’Reilly, an amateur photographer.

“I was very surprised to be approached. . . I think the ban is a bit ridiculous. What harm can come from taking photos there?”

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) says that within the IFSC area of the Docklands, the management company have guidelines in place “mainly for promotions and filming in the area”.

However, the management company, HSG Zander, says that all types of photography require a permit from them in advance.

“As the IFSC is private property we are governed by the tenants to implement a strict security regime. A full application process must be addressed prior to approval, which entails completion of a general application form and insurance forms. There is also a permit charge associated with each application granted. These costs can only be determined once the application forms are received,” says Alison O’Neill, facilities manager and health and safety officer at HSG Zander Ireland. “Failure to produce a valid permit will result in security requesting you to leave the centre.”

Asked if this applies to all types of photography, including amateur photography and whether it covers public events held in the IFSC area, O’Neill says, “This system applies to everything. However, exclusive permission must be sought also from the Docklands for events such as the Urban Beach.”

Of the rest of the Docklands, Aileen Cummins at the DDDA says that, “In relation to guidelines for photographing in the Docklands area – excluding the IFSC and privately owned buildings – there are none currently in place. We allow all types of photography but we would like to be informed when and where someone will be photographing.”

Photographers have also complained about being stopped by security on the Dart and Luas in Dublin. One student claims that when they had been out on a photographic assignment taking long exposure shots of trams from a Luas stop it was “implied” their cameras would be taken from them if they did not move on quickly.

On boards.ie others have complained that security guards working for Luas said the operator owned the “copyright” for the tram, but a representative from the company corrected this by saying that simply taking photographs on Luas property was not allowed.

The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) confirmed that Veolia Transport, the private company that operates Dublin’s Luas lines on behalf of the State, takes a strict reading of the by-laws covering tramways.

The by-laws say that without permission of the operator, a person should not use any camera or video recorder as to “interfere” with any other person. Veolia takes this to mean that photography is not allowed without permission. The RPA says: “Veolia Transport Dublin Light Rail Ltd, the current Luas operator, require any individual wishing to photograph a light rail vehicle or the light railway to obtain a permit in advance of so doing.”

Irish Rail takes a very different view even though its by-laws are written similarly. “We are very open in relation to photography for personal use. Obviously with the rail enthusiast community, it’s something we’re quite used to,” says Irish Rail spokesman Barry Kenny. “There is no issue with hand-held cameras. If there is use of a tripod involved, we will generally get the photographer to sign an indemnity form.”

He adds that photography is only permitted in public areas and photographers should not get in the way of customers or staff.

Digital Rights Ireland have a guide to photographers’ rights online which says that: “In general, you are entitled to take pictures of anything you wish, when in a public place. You may take pictures of private property, people, or anything else you fancy.”

With regard to private property, the guide says: “On private property, you are also generally allowed to take photographs, provided you have permission to be on the property. However, the owner can impose conditions on your entry to the property, which may include a complete ban on photography, a ban on photography of certain things, or a ban on certain types of photography, (for example, flash photography, video or photography).”

It goes on to say that, “Even where permission is not explicitly needed to enter the property, the owner is entitled to demand that you cease taking photographs, or that you leave the property. If you are asked to leave a property, you should not be threatened or attacked.

“Reasonable force may be used to remove you if necessary. In general, you are better off leaving when asked – the fact that you should not be threatened, does not mean you won’t be. The owner has no right to confiscate or damage any of your equipment.”

Alan Murphy, a photographer who runs irishphotographers.ie, believes the issue has potentialy serious consequences. “Has anyone stopped to ask why people can’t actually take photographs as they wish – what is the big concern? I see no real justification to stop people taking photographs in the general run of everyday life – as we move through the century we will have no iconic images of children playing, people going about their daily life, lovers kissing in the streets – the images that help us recollect our yesteryear. To be honest it depresses me.”