No.10 petition fuels photo rights confusion

February 22, 2007

A photographer?s Downing Street petition against ‘proposed restrictions’ on rights to take pictures in public has confused many into wrongly believing that the government is planning such a move. It seems that the petition was largely fuelled by a photo enthusiast?s idea to launch a self-styled ID Card and has nothing to do with future government policy whatsoever.

The ‘e-petition’ was set up by Hampshire-based photographer Simon Taylor and ? at the time of writing ? had been signed by more than 11,000 people.

However, the petition?s wording has confused some photographers, who have contacted AP fearing that the government was planning to announce new restrictions on photography in public, such as the need to carry an ID card.

Clarifying the government?s position a Home Office spokesman said he was not aware of government plans requiring photographers to carry an ID card while operating in a public place.

The petition ? which was set up on 14 February – states: ?We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Stop proposed restrictions regarding photography in public places.?

AP has discovered that the fuss stems from a suggestion put forward by David Kessel, publicity secretary for the Southern Photographic Federation. He told us that he had suggested the idea of carrying an ID card when taking photos in public, part of which indicates that he is a bona fide non-commercial photographer.

Kessel said that he put forward his idea to the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB) in the hope that the card could be carried by PAGB members. It is understood that Kessel?s suggestion was also forwarded to other clubs.

But he told us that the PAGB rejected his suggestion and that he has now virtually abandoned the idea.

He had not expected that his proposal would lead to a petition on the Downing Street website, which he had no role in drawing up.

A similar idea is being considered by the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) but nothing has yet been decided.

The RPS?s director general Stuart Blake today told us that any such initiative would aim to ?help photographers as a whole? ? including both amateurs and professionals.

Taylor, who is a professional photographer, opposes any suggestion from clubs that enthusiasts should carry with them an ‘ID card’ that outlines their rights to capture non-commercial images, such as those for competitions, for example.

He doesn?t see why non-professionals should have more rights than professional photographers, journalists or members of the public.

He believes such a card would restrict its carrier to taking pictures only for non-commercial purposes.

Responding to the confusion that the Downing Street petition has aroused Taylor has now posted a message on his website stating:

?I have been inundated with requests for details regarding the petition I have started at the Number 10 e-petition site?. I have not said that a bill is in preparation, or that legislation is being prepared, but am referring to the ID cards proposed by various bodies which will serve to create an ‘uber class’ of photographer, and restrict the use of cameras by normal citizens. These cards will only further the suspicion and misunderstandings that many photographers already suffer.?