Michael and I received an e-mail with a link to Andrea Monti’s blog article onStreet Photography and The Law In Italy. It is not Luminous Landscape’s normal policy to provide links to an off site blog, but we thought we would make an exception here. Both of us really enjoy doing street photography and now more then ever before the sensitive question of what is legal and what are the laws comes up often. We have heard stories from every country where photographers are being harassed and even arrested in public places for taking photographs. Thus we thought this would be a good blog article to share. While the laws in this article pertain to Italy, they also are similar in many other cities and countries.
Street Photography and Italian Law – Some Practical Information
by Andrea Monti
To cut a long story short, Italian law follows a similar approach to other western jurisdictions and – in particular – Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
So, shooting and publishing candid pictures is legal as long as they are taken in public spaces, not for profit, without damaging the dignity of a person or endangering public safety and moral. If these requisites are met, there are no privacy-related issues to be feared. O n the contrary, and until case law says something different , the Italian Data Protection Act can be interpreted so that it is possible to prevent a professional photographer doing his job, while leaving the “amateur” free from any legal encumbrance.
Although the legal theory is clear enough, reality is a horse of a different color. It is possible for a photographer to be confronted by a policeman regarding the protest of a candidly portrayed person. As a matter of fact, street-photography is not per-se illegal, since as the Italian Supreme Court case law affirms, in public there is no reasonable privacy expectation. Thus the police – unless a serious crime has been committed – neither has the right to (temporary) arrest a photographer nor to seize a photographer’s camera, let alone to order the deletion of a picture. The only one allowed to issue this order is the public prosecutor. The prosecutor and nobody else.
If you are taken to a police station, just because the officer is not able to sort out your situation on the spot, you’re not “charged” or “arrested” so you don’t have the “right to place a call”. Nevertheless it is a good idea to have at hand the phone number either of the local journalist association or the local chapter of the FIAF (Federazione Italiana Associazioni Fotografiche) an Italian nation-wide amateur photographer association that might provide some help. Look for other similar organizations in your home country or the country you are photographing in.
And, yes, just in case you ask, Italy is supposed to be a democratic country.
By Andrea Monti