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.