Are your photos protected by copyright?

Emily Shoemark

08 Oct 2018


  • Intellectual Property

A photograph is protected by copyright as soon as it is taken. Generally, the photographer owns the copyright in the photos they take. However, as Emily Shoemark, Senior Associate with Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers explains, there are exceptions to this rule, depending on the photographer’s employment and the reason that the photo is taken.


In Australia, copyright and privacy laws do not protect a person’s image, and ‘a person, in our society, does not have a right not to be photographed.’[1] However, as a general rule, you should get permission to take a person’s photograph if you are going to use it for a commercial purpose.

Private property

You need to get the owner’s permission if you’re on private property. Also, the owner has the right to prevent or restrict the photos you take. It’s important to remember that just because land is publicly accessible doesn’t mean that it’s public land. However, the property owner can’t stop you from taking photos of their private land, or things or people on that land, if you take the photo from a public place (for example, the street).[2]

Entertainment and sporting events

Whether or not an event organiser allows you to take photos of their event depends on a number of issues, even if the event is just your child’s sports carnival or a local concert. Is the event being held on private or public land? Do you need the organiser’s consent? Are there any child protection issues? Event organisers might also restrict photography due to copyright reasons, the type of image you’re taking or the nature of the performance.

Landmarks, sculptures and national parks

There are exceptions in the Copyright Act that allow people to take and publish photographs of buildings and sculptures in public places without infringing copyright.[3] However, keep in mind that local councils and authorities prohibit photography in some public places, such as Darling Harbour and Sydney Olympic Park in Sydney. Also, if someone thinks your photography is suspicious, they may report you to the authorities. And did you know that you need a permit to take photos for commercial use on a Commonwealth reserve? This includes Kakadu National Park and the National Botanic Gardens.

How can Snedden Hall & Gallop help you?

Our Intellectual Property team can help you if you’d like to know more about the copyright associated with photos you’ve taken. Please contact us today for assistance on (02) 6285 8000 or by email.


[1]  R v Sotheren (2001) NSWSC 204
[2]  Victoria Park Racing and Recreation Grounds Co Td v Taylor (1937)
[3]  Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) Division 7