Posted by:

David G

David G, Chief Explorer

A general guide to the legal considerations when capturing outdoor virtual tours.

Many people, rightly, have questions about the legality of capturing Street View photos and videos outdoors.

Whilst I have no legal qualifications, here’s what I’ve discovered over the last few years.

In the UK, there is no law preventing people from taking photographs in a public place. This includes taking photos of other people’s children.

Generally speaking, this is the same in most Western based countries too.

If you are taking photographs from private land, you need to have the land owner’s permission. Keep in mind, that what you believe to be public land might be private, so double-check first.

A good example of private land being free to access National Trust woodland.

Similarly, the photo above might seem to have been taken in a public place – outside Paddington station, on the towpath of the Grand Union Canal. In fact, this land is private and owned by European Land and Property Ltd.

Public land might also overlook private land. Taking a photo of a person where they can expect privacy, such as inside their home or garden, even if done from public land, is likely to cause a breach of privacy laws.

Interestingly, in the USA I discovered whilst it’s typically OK to take a photo of a person in a public place, remote sensing of the earth from outer space (perhaps to photograph Astronauts) requires a license!

Assuming you are taking photos of a public place under the considerations above, and the images are not deemed to be indecent, no one has the right to:

  • ask a you to stop
  • ask for a copy of the photos
  • force you to delete the photographs

Of course, laws get much more complex and differ by geography.

Most people reading this post will want to publish images taken outdoors, both commercially and non-commercially, to create 360 tours on various platforms.

Generally speaking, in Europe and the US the same legal restrictions apply to publishing a photo as they do to capturing it. That is, if it is taken in or of a public place then you are free to publish it.

It’s also important to stress that this post covers the legalities of capturing imagery outdoors and publishing it, but it does not address the moral issues.

For example, I avoid capturing imagery in areas children might be playing. Whilst this is legal, morally, I know parents will be rightly concerned with someone capturing footage of their children.

People might not realise the imagery will be blurred. Others might not agree with the privacy policies of the aforementioned services.

You will have to make your own moral judgements about where you shoot, and where you upload the content.

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