Filming and taking photos in public places: an explainer
When contributing to Wikipedia, Wikimedia commons or Wikimedia platforms Australians must comply with Australian copyright laws as well as international laws.
If you film or take a photo in a public place such as a park, city street or open space, you will be creating a photograph (artistic work) or film which is protected under copyright laws. However you may also be capturing images of artistic works or buildings where the copyright is owned by someone else.
For example, someone may take a photograph of a city square which includes statues and sculptures, or an iconic building designed by an architect.
The Copyright Act 1968 (Commonwealth of Australia) has special rules for this kind of incidental filming or photography (primarily sections 65 - 68 of the Act). The following table explains what is allowed.
What am I allowed to include in my photos/videos when shooting/filming in a public place in Australia?
|You can include:
where the work is permanently situated in a public place, or a premises open to the public (eg a sculpture in the foyer of a government building that is open to the public).
|You can include all forms of artistic works, eg:
as long as including the artwork in your film is incidental to the principal matters your film is about.
For example, if you are filming a documentary about the history of a suburb, you may film a street in that suburb that has a mural on a building. Filming the mural is likely to be incidental to making the documentary.
In contrast, you could not make a film that only included images of that mural, as that would be the primary purpose of making the film.
In Australian copyright law, the general position is that the copyright owner is the only person allowed to use their content unless either:
- The Copyright Act gives you a permission to do a particular activity with the owner's content; or
- You obtain permission from the owner.
This means it is important to carefully read the extent of the permissions given by copyright exceptions. For example, section 65 specifically allows you to take a photograph of sculptures and works of artistic craftsmanship. The permission does not extend to the broader concept of "artistic works", which includes murals and paintings. As murals and paintings are not referred to in the section, publishing photos of public murals is not allowed without the artist's permission.
Sculptures and certain other works in public places
- This section applies to sculptures and to works of artistic craftsmanship of the kind referred to in paragraph (c) of the definition of artistic work in section 10.
- The copyright in a work to which this section applies that is situated, otherwise than temporarily, in a public place, or in premises open to the public, is not infringed by the making of a painting, drawing, engraving or photograph of the work or by the inclusion of the work in a cinematograph film or in a television broadcast.
Buildings and models of buildings The copyright in a building or a model of a building is not infringed by the making of a painting, drawing, engraving or photograph of the building or model or by the inclusion of the building or model in a cinematograph film or in a television broadcast.
Incidental filming or televising of artistic works Without prejudice to the last two preceding sections, the copyright in an artistic work is not infringed by the inclusion of the work in a cinematograph film or in a television broadcast if its inclusion in the film or broadcast is only incidental to the principal matters represented in the film or broadcast.
Publication of artistic works The copyright in an artistic work is not infringed by the publication of a painting, drawing, engraving, photograph or cinematograph film if, by virtue of section 65, section 66 or section 67, the making of that painting, drawing, engraving, photograph or film did not constitute an infringement of the copyright.