Does anyone know the legal aspects for the following situation? At a sports competition someone took photos of me. They have since posted them on Facebook and on a commercial website, where anyone can buy them.

My objection is that I don't want photos of me published without my prior consent. Needless to say, I never gave them my consent. I don't object to them selling the pictures (except that by selling they also publish and distribute).

Is it reasonable (by UK or European law) for me to ask them to take the photos down?

  • Given that the competition was open to the public (as spectators) does this change my right on images of me?
  • I am not a public figure ;-)
  • The competition took place indoors on private property.

If you can please provide links/references to the relevant laws/court decisions.

This is a question about a legal topic. I realise that all answers will not be legal advice.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ You may find that by participating in the competition, you've signed up to the Ts&Cs of the competition and as such you may actually have given your consent.. \$\endgroup\$
    – forsvarir
    Feb 7, 2012 at 12:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Those T&Cs are no where to be found, so I could not have agreed to them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Unapiedra
    Feb 7, 2012 at 12:27
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not a lawyer but I'm not sure that's true. By participating in an event, to me it would seem like there's an implied contract between you and the event organiser that you are giving up some rights. If you went on stage at a televised event there would be an implied acceptance that you would be on TV, whether or not you'd signed anything... Your question is is it reasonable to ask them and the answer is YES. I would imagine that unless the picture is outstanding most profesional photographers would take down the image to maintain goodwill. Forcing them to take it down would be harder. \$\endgroup\$
    – forsvarir
    Feb 7, 2012 at 12:41
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I believe that the fact that they are selling them is a point in your favour. With a few caveats, there is no law in the UK against someone taking a photo of anything or anyone in a public setting, and nothing stopping them displaying it in a not-for-profit context. However, usually if you wish to sell a photo of a person you would obtain a model release giving you permission to sell it. In addition, if the photo was taken on private property the photographer should have obtained permission to shoot and to sell any photos taken from the proprietor. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 7, 2012 at 12:55

2 Answers 2


In the UK, the law states that you are allowed to take photographs in a public place. Therefore, if you are in a public place (sports event or otherwise), you can reasonably expect to have your photograph taken.

However, as it was a sporting event you were at, I imagine the grounds or sports centre where it took place were privately owned? In which case, the landowner can lay down their own rules regarding photography. You may wish to see if the venue has a photography policy.

There is some advice for photographing in public here: Met Police Photography Advice

I would also recommend reading this site - specifically the section on People and Privacy - there is a quote there which clarifies the position of the law on people's right to privacy:

There is no legal restriction on photography in public places, and there is no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place.

-- Home Office Minister Tony McNulty MP

It also states:

If you're on a public right of way - such as a public pavement, footpath or public highway - you're free to take photographs for personal and commercial use so long as you're not causing an obstruction to other users or falling foul of anti-Terrorism laws or even the Official Secrets Act

The page on photographing buildings discusses the ability for private land-owners to ban photography on their premises.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I was clearly not on public right of way territory. Also, I am not the landowner or organiser of the event, so I can't impose my rules. Whether the landowner did, I do not know. The sports ground were, I believe, privately owned. It was a university building. \$\endgroup\$
    – Unapiedra
    Feb 7, 2012 at 23:21
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ many universities in the UK are publicly owned. Whether they are public right or way would depend on the entry restrictions I guess (but IANAL). If it was an open event, you were in a public place. \$\endgroup\$
    – jwenting
    Feb 8, 2012 at 6:28

It seems that the case is reasonably clear. Following Wikimedia's take on things [2], I could expect to be photographed during the competition and therefore the venue could be classified as public.

For the publication of that photo the rules are slightly harder but according to [1] publication seems to be allowed. I am not clear on the commercial use of that photograph. I haven't found a source for that but it might be legal in the UK. If you have an answer to the commercial use than please post your own answer.

Academically interesting is the following:

Photographs of people may also be subject to the Data Protection Act, which controls the "processing" of "personal data", that is, data relating to an individual and from which the individual can be identified. There has not yet been a court case that has determined whether or not an image of a person, [...] , would be caught by the Act [...].[1]

This is related directly to my objection as I see myself being at the competition and my liking of that sport as personal data. Anyway, I will leave it at that and accept that their acting is legal.

[1] http://www.sirimo.co.uk/2009/05/14/uk-photographers-rights-v2/ --> Download the PDF. [2] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Photographs_of_identifiable_people

TL;DR Taking and publishing of pictures on a public competition is allowed.


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