Law In Action: Owning Your Image


In this week’s Law In Action, Joshua Rozenberg looks at an assortment of issues around the law and photography — starting with the issue of interference in citizens’ rights to pursue their hobby of street photography without harassment. The opening sequence is of Rozenberg and Grant Smith (of getting arrested fame) getting hassled by a building manager who confidently tells them that they can’t photograph her building without permission (clarifying, “you can’t film inside this building”, prompting the wonderful reply, “oh, am I inside your building, then?”), and that they wouldn’t be able to photograph the street without clearing the data protection requirements.

My own office’s manager signs off every email (invariably marked “Urgent”, and with “Urgent” in the all-caps subject line — “Urgent: The south toilets are closed for maintenance, please use the north toilets”; “Urgent: Please don’t leave tea-spoons in the sink”…) with her name and letters — the impressive title of “Member of the British Institute of Facilities Managers”. The Institute’s website offers courses in facilities management. I guess office managers can learn how to confidently and intimidatingly bullshit about the law; how to confidently project an absurdly inflated sense of the importance of their role; and how to confidently look busy with all kinds of invented official business.

Why do so many office managers think it’s acceptable to make up absurd lies that not only insultingly insinuate that practitioners of another profession are too incompetent to discover and understand what the law says about their profession, but lies that also lead them to incorrectly accuse those professionals of acting illegally? Those are pretty serious insults, and pretty serious allegations. Why do office managers think it’s part of their role to go around making them? Why do they think it’s useful to anybody that they tell these lies? And why do they think that an acceptable response to being challenged and educated about how these are lies is to call in the police?

Because the police are still telling them that it’s useful for them to do so. And they still haven’t provided the slightest credible evidence to support that position. The police are actively encouraging office managers to waste police time. To waste time and public money that could be spent keeping London’s streets safe from criminals and terrorists.

The programme moves on to discuss the use of photography and filming in surveillance. Do listen again, while you can — link expires Thursday. Grant Smith’s photos from his encounter are here.

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