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I've been reading some online information about selling event photos online and I can't seem to get to a conclusion with the information I found.

My question is if, for example, I take photos of a private event (like a sports activity) held on public land and I am not the official photographer for that event, can I still sell shots to the athletes taking part in such an event?

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    The answer probably depends on your jurisdiction. According to your profile page you are from Malta. Is this also where you are taking the images? – null Apr 4 '16 at 12:28
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    Interpretation of "public land" also needs to be clear. I am in the midst of a dispute re photos taken on public land during a festival. I give online photo access free - no $ made. I ended up spending 40 or so minutes confronted by 2 police-people and 6 officials (why not only 1 official I know not) over my right to do this. None of them (incl) NZ Police seemed to know NZ law well enough and I was pushed to edge of being arrested for doing things our law allows. According to me. TBD :-). SO be sure what rights the organisers have. Getting their agreement may help. – Russell McMahon Apr 4 '16 at 12:51
  • @RussellMcMahon: I would be interested in more detail on that as I am also in NZ. – Conor Boyd Apr 4 '16 at 22:43
  • @ConorBoyd See my answer - I posted this as a series of comments but decided that it was of enough use to be an answer even though this is NZ. This is what can happen when people feel that their commercial interests are threatened (even when they are not) and when NZ police consider the organisers have to be supported even when their grasp of relevant law is poor. (I MAY yet prove to be wrong to some extent but they were "sure" of areas where they were definitely wrong). – Russell McMahon Apr 5 '16 at 7:06
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I'll post this here even though its in NZ so will have different rules (unless you too are from NZ).

Here, notionally, rules re photography on public land are clear and very unrestrictive. In practice, event organisers may seek to limit your rights and police may assist them even when points of uncertainty are clearly explained to them. Here is what happened to me recently:


In NZ one can take photos in a public place of about anything. At the limits there is obvious overlap with other laws and rights but generally you are largely allowed to take photos of things that can be seen. This to some extend extends onto private property - eg photos of the front of a house or a garden would be OK or even people standing in front of a house but you may not freely photograph scenes which may reasonably be considered to be private such as through windows. I have no problems with the law and am pleased at its relative openness compared to many other places

The P-----a festival is a large annual even held at "Western Springs Lake" - a large Auckland Public Park - replete with lake, swans/ducks/geese, winding paths, bush, bridges, .... . A popular family spot which many visit all year round. The festival spreads across most of this area for 2 days over a weekend. Admission is free. There are NO tickets, NO boundary signs etc, NO regulations or rules posted (AFAIK). There are paid for stalls selling food and theme related services and products (clothing, jewelry, ethnic stuff, ...). There are stages with dancing acts music bands ... . Again, it's all free & fun.

The area is not in any way access-limited. People can and do come to the lake and park to do what they usually do there independent of the festival. There is absolutely no indication or suggestion that it is not 'recreational) business as usual' for those who just want to use the park. They walk, jog, cycle, picnic, walk dogs, juggle (1 seen), sleep, ... . If I wish I can go there and take photos. I can give people contact details for photos online. I could probably legitimately do so for $ BUT I can certainly could do so for free with no objection or legal restriction.

I take photos at MANY events, shows etc. Some free, some entry charged. VERY occasionally I am paid to do so but usually I do so "for fun". I usually hand out contact slips to tell people where to find photos. I get some follow on contacts. I do not recall ever getting any paid photography work that way - that is not the aim or expectation. (The only way I ever get paid work is by word of mouth - this is (obviously) not my "day job :-). Some of the referrals MAY have come from somebody who saw me in a park somewhere but I don'd recall this happening. Usually it's via weddings, parties etc.

I have taken photos at P---- on many past occasions. I have handed out slips at all of them without problems. The security staff and organisers and clean up people and ambulance staff etc are all part of my photos and get slips if wanted. This time I took photos of two smiling security ladies and the fun began. Before long we had 6 organisers. I suggested they invite the police (always present) to comment. Afterwards they would not admit that it was my suggestion. Organisers (a contracted firm) claimed I was ambush advertising etc. They claimed it was unfair to the other paid stands - who I was meant to be 'ambushing' I know not - NO photos were being sold that I was aware of. They identified the bottom line on my handout as the problem. I cut it off. They of course just changed their claims.

This was a PUBLIC place. Anyone could do anything they always did there and people were doing so. I was threatened with being "trespassed" (by the police) = leave or die. I was threatened with being arrested - "trying my luck with the courts" was specifically mentioned by the police. After a while people denied it was a public place. They would not believe anything I told them - all of which was true.
They next said my email address demonstrated commercial action - it is chosen to be rememberable - NZphotosNZ@gmail.com <- auto replies with list of webpages for events etc.
They poisoned an international good will group against me so I was subsequently assaulted (technically only)(young men 1/3 my age playing chest to chest pushy aggro games and yelling and gesticulating)(police etc then not there) by its members who had previously been pleasant and welcoming. I was harassed by organisers subsequently and they "warned" several stand holders against me. I don't know what was said but friendliness instantly changed to fear !

Alas this has to be pursued by me on principal. Anon.


In NZ it is legal to record a conversation as long as at least one party agrees to the recording being made. A photographer carrying multiple modern cameras usually has multiple recording devices to hand. .... .

  • Thanks for sharing. Sad state of affairs. My photography is similar, i.e. not my day job, but I also share photos taken in my own time at community events at no cost with those who ask. Are you able to detail what the "bottom line on your handout" is/was? I support your stand. Who are you pursuing this with? Auckland Council? – Conor Boyd Apr 6 '16 at 4:19
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    @ConorBoyd I want to be sure what the true legal position is. I do not wish to cause trouble but I also do not want commercial or other interests to erode rights for anyone that they have under NZ law. I also suspect that the police may have improperly passed on 'information'. It happens that there is incorrect information in their system - a complex and entertaining story in its own right. I'd be meaning to address this for some while but hadn't got to it. The time may have come :-). | Bottom line mentioned types of photography I may do. I agree that this could be seen as advertising even... – Russell McMahon Apr 6 '16 at 14:04
  • ... though the main aim was to add credibility to the guy waving a camera around in this suspicion ridden world. ie it's all true but paid jobs are an incidental aspect and such that there are come from word of mouth. It said: "Events, Birthdays - 1st - 21st, Weddings, Sports, Street Photography, Technical, Travel" | 1st birthdays are mentioned as they are a big event in Polynesian families. | They said the bottom line was unacceptable. I cut it off. They moved on to other things. Acceptable was not an option. – Russell McMahon Apr 6 '16 at 14:09
  • Pretty sure my understanding of the true legal position in NZ is the same as yours as outlined. The AIPA website has one or two resources in this area (e.g. the "Clendons Guide to NZ Law relating to Photography") – Conor Boyd Apr 6 '16 at 21:49
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    @ConorBoyd The issue largely depends on whether I was in a public place. The organisers considered they had a right to control aspects of my behaviour and a police-person said at one stage that it was NOT a public place. As it IS a public place on all other occasions & there was no charge for entry, no barriers boundaries or fences or signs relating to conditions (there may or may not have been a general P-----a event sign in places - the boundary is perhaps 1 km long) & people could and did come and go doing things they usually do there without any problem, I still believe it to be public. – Russell McMahon Apr 7 '16 at 15:19
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If the athletes are NCAA, definitely not*. If "private event" means you needed a press pass to be able to shoot, almost certainly not (you'll find a disclaimer on the back of most press passes basically saying "we own your photos, but we're letting the publication which sent you use them").

Otherwise, maybe. Check with an attorney rather than the organizers of the event who will almost certainly say no even if that's not legally the answer. Although, depending on the type of event it is, you might want to be a nice guy and respect the organizers' wishes, legality aside.

*I haven't actually been able to find the rule saying you can't sell photos of players. That's just what news organizations I've worked with have told me. I suppose it could be urban legend or outdated information.

  • +1 Why would anyone down-vote this? It's brief but useful and seems factual. A reference would help but is not essential. The comment on what organisers may say as opposed to what is legal exactly matches my experience. – Russell McMahon Apr 7 '16 at 23:15
  • I agree, especially since I didn't give direct advice so much as advise that you should get direct advice. I've updated the NCAA thing though since I couldn't find a reference. – Lee Saxon Apr 8 '16 at 5:08
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i just had a similar case to yours, but the organizers are on my side, they knew i was going to sell the photos of the event to stock libraries and i had written permission. It was a cosplay and comics (public=open to the general population even if there was a ticketed event) event, one visitor (dressed as a character) found her photo on the stock library website and made a post on facebook, that i had no right to earn money with her face and i didn't have permission to take photos of the event without consent, there are minors in the event, she wants money of the sales, etc.. Of course all of her friends that went to the event, started complaining also, and then friends of friends discovered other photos on the stock library that i took, of carnival events and other stuff and demanding to delete the photos. It was like a snowball effect. I'm still trying to figure out what to do.

So the answer to the original question is yes. And also to stock libraries, but due note that practice is changing in some areas, for instance in Portugal, visitors in SOME big music festivals are generally prohibited to take DSLR type cameras to inside the event, security could or could not take your camera, or doesn't see, or let you pass, or doesn't inform you, but if the organizers of the event later find your photos for sale you COULD get into trouble. But the "could" is sometimes a grey area, BECAUSE there was no visible information at the entrance, securities didn't told you, and other factors, so if you plan to sell, ask in every event for credentials, some don't bother and don't care and give you credentials with no problem. I usually only ask for credentials to shoot photo/video the event, i never tell them to what is for, and most of them really don't care. It's presumable that the photos will be for editorial content, anyway. And by law, if the event is open to the general public and you were authorized there's no problem. If securities or the organizers forgot to inform you, my guess is the ball is on your side. Usually they "hide" that information in tiny letters on some area of the event website.

  • @benrudgers to be fair, the comment is a pro forma comment that came from review. Also, it was before membio edited the answer to more directly answer the question, which IMO substantially improved the answer. – scottbb Nov 27 '17 at 17:34
  • @scottbb The answer is more conformant with a literal reading of the site's requirements. And now it has the 'could' synonym for 'it depends'. That's not to say it isn't an interesting story and that's about the best [legal] questions illicit. – user50888 Nov 27 '17 at 17:47

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