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I found architecturally interesting building in my city (Cracow, Poland) that before war used to be villa and now is the seat of the Austrian Consulate.

Does law allow to take photographies of embassies and consulates?

  • 1
    The best thing to do is to ask permission. – Mick Nov 13 '16 at 23:09
  • Anything is legal until you get caught. – Michael C Nov 14 '16 at 6:20
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    @Mick this is tricky, because as far as I remember the embassies are considered to belong to the territory of their country. That would mean that when taking the photograph you are in one jurisdiction while your subject is in a different one. – null Nov 14 '16 at 11:30
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    If you ~shoot~ photograph from behind the bush, with a buzz cut n greenish clothes, and photographing only Embassy building, it is trouble. If you look like a curious tourist, walking on a street, capturing every building which fancies your eyes, good for you. And even if they object, stop, apologize, and move on. – DavChana Nov 14 '16 at 18:09
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Legally this is a little bit like taking a photo of one country from another.

This is a legal grey area that it would be significantly easier just to avoid, unless you have to photograph in this situation as part of your job.

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On a recent trip to Italy, Oct. 2017, while walking around the city we found ourselves outside the gates of the US embassy. High stone walls broken only by a massive iron barred gate at the front. Through the bars I saw the American flag, and raised my phone for a photo. No sooner had I snapped when an armed Italian police officer came scurrying from around a corner shaking his finger and yelling at me "NO,NO photos!!" I asked why, as I am American. "NO, NO photos!" was his answer. Properly chaistend, we left.

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    not really an answer right now, could you add a bit of research so that we can upvote? – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Nov 19 '17 at 9:04
  • While there are surely good legal points for taking pictures of public buildings in public places I can understand the security implications, and how they make the guards uncomfortable – Jindra Lacko Nov 19 '17 at 11:50
  • I agree with @aaaaaa, this is a relevant anecdote, but doesn't actually answer the question about legality. Dealing with overzealous guards/police is certainly something to consider when in such situations, but the question was about the actual legality of the situation. The question should be answered to inform those who wish to stand their ground on "but it's my right!" or "I'm completely entitled to..." (whether or not such course of action is actually advisable). – scottbb Nov 19 '17 at 17:52
  • You would have experienced similar things trying to photograph the US embassy in Berlin (from short distance). At the same time it would be absolutely ok to photograph the Russian embassy which is only about five hundred meters away, or the British one which is somewhere between them. – Zenit Jan 13 '18 at 7:49
  • There mere fact that a cop tells you not to do something doesn't mean that doing it is illegal. And the fact that a cop in Italy told you not to take a photo of the American embassy doesn't have much bearing on whether one can legally take a photo of the Austrian consulate in Poland. – Caleb Jan 13 '18 at 23:53
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Not a lawyer, but here in America there would be (at least these) two considerations; privacy rights and specific legislation. Non-persons have no privacy rights in America, so as long as you are taking the photograph from public property, that isn't an issue. As far as specific legislation is concerned, my guess would be that embassies, consulates, etc. may well be illegal to photograph. A good practice would be to ask permission beforehand.

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I can attest to this. Took a photo of the UAE embassy in Madrid and a police cruiser came out of nowhere and two officers kindly asked me to stop and scroll through relevant pictures on my camera, then asked me to delete any containing the government building. After I did so, they thanked me and went on their way.

  • So, Poland now has the same laws as Spain? And over eager police officers never do wrong? Not answering the question. – TomTom Jan 14 '18 at 18:27
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Generally no. The exact law will depend on where you are but it is almost always no.

This is really too bad as many embassies are in beautiful historic builds (all of them in Hanoi prevent me from taking photos of the most beautiful colonial buildings in the city). There has been cases of people in the UAE being taken by the police for doing so, even unknowingly since the buildings are not always marked as such.

  • "people in the UAE" likely being the core here. Same as in North Korea I would doubt the UAE bothers a lot with the rights of photographers vs. any governmental institution. Groing from there to "generally no" is a total non sequitur. – TomTom Jan 14 '18 at 18:27
  • Both in Vietnam and in the US, just to name the last two places I tried, did not allow it. – Itai Aug 6 at 2:25

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