Our say: Blurred lines – cans and cannots of photography

One of the most common jobs we have as rural journalists is to do stories on school children or junior sporting clubs. 

While we take plenty of cute photos of students in their uniforms or of kids on the soccer field, there are actually a lot of legal issues we need to keep in mind before we click away. 

Earlier this week, we had a resident come into the office who had concerns about what they can and cannot take photos of when children are involved. He’s right to be concerned, and even confused, because unless you have a pretty sound understanding of media law, taking what you believe to be an innocent photo could in fact be breaking Federal laws. 

Before I get into the nitty gritty and technicalities of the law, it’s probably best I explain why these laws are in place – to keep kids safe. Far too often we hear of stories where predators are using smart phones to take illicit photos of children and posting them online or children being potentially in danger if photos of them are published  – these laws are designed to protect them. 

But that doesn’t mean you need to ask permission or make a contract up if you’re in the park taking photos of the trees and children happen to be in the shot – like I said, the laws get confusing.

Essentially what it boils down to is a debate about public and private – are you taking photos of children in a private place? 

You cannot, for example, take photos of children in school without the written permission of parents, even if you just happen to be taking photos outside of the school:

“… having free access to a place does not mean it is a public place and is permissible to take photographs/ film, such as; schools, child care services, hospitals, nursing homes, shopping malls, sports arenas and music venues. These places are considered to be private property even if they are owned by government.”

So how can we possibly take photos of children playing sport or in the library? We make sure we get parent’s permission. 

Of course, parents aren’t around their children 24/7 – that’s where schools and clubs have permission slips stating which children can and cannot have photos – convenient for when the media rocks up. 

Best practice? Ask permission if possible – but understand you are protected by law in public spaces – with some exceptions. Confusing right?

Kelsey Sutor