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Lens limits

HOME OFFICE minister Vernon Coaker has confirmed that it is policy that photography can be "limited" in public places in "special circumstances". In a letter to the NUJ dated 3 December 2008, following up on his meeting with NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear on 5 November, Coaker gave an alarmingly broad definition of such special circumstances, which "may be on the grounds of national security, or there may be situations in which the taking of photographs may cause or lead to public order situations or inflame an already tense situation... Additionally, the police may require a person to move on in order to prevent a breach of the peace or to avoid a public order situation or for the person's own safety and welfare or for the safety and welfare of others."

Many law enforcement and security people seem to be making up the law on filming in public as they go along anyway. A short video posted on YouTube shows numerous examples of police and Community Support Officers and security guards cluelessly telling the public they're not allowed to film or photograph in a public place, or photograph or film police officers. (Oh yes, they are!) Big Brother Hates Being Filmed! (at also features an appearance by our own NUJ Freelance Organiser' John Toner, reiterating that "If you are on public land in a public place there is no law to prevent you either taking still pictures or moving images."

Be warned, however, before you take a look at the video and forward a link to all your colleagues, that YouTube seem to have marginalised it into a page featuring thumbnails down one side of the webpage that advertise "Relevant Videos" of an, er, "adult" nature. These are mostly censored extracts from American Big Brother and actually not very rude clips of people verbally giving sex advice, but the rather in-your-face titles for these clips that appear on the page lead you believe otherwise. The creator of the Big Brother Hates Being Filmed! clip has complained to YouTube about this, to no avail.

Last modified: 29 Jan 2009 - © 2009 contributors
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