Don't Want Your Picture Taken? Just Say So

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Street style photographers. Photo: Gareth Cattermole

Amidst all the ballyhoo about who dresses up for street style photographers, who doesn't, and who wishes they'd just go away, there's the interesting matter of law: In France, according to the rather oblique Article 9 of France’s civil code, you can take legal action if someone photographs you without your permission. The Article states, “Everyone has the right to respect for his private life,” but what that means exactly is up for interpretation. The Times's photography blog, Lens, notes today that this slippery law impacts street photographers, who often incite anger when they attempt to take candid shots in public:

This litigiousness is playing out in a country on whose streets Henri Cartier-Bresson, Willy Ronis and Robert Doisneau created historic images that continue to inspire photographers today. Yet in the 23 years since Article 9 became law, street photography in France has all but disappeared...

[T]he legal record is mixed. In 2008, when a woman objected to the use of her image by the photographer François-Marie Banier in his book “Perdre la Tête,” an appeals court sided with Mr. Banier. The ruling decreed that the right to control one’s image must yield when a photograph contributes to the exchange of ideas and opinions, deemed “indispensable” to a democratic society.

The article goes on to list other examples of legal precedence, all of which seem rather murky. But speaking of "candid" shots in "public," how does this apply to street style photography, which goes on in France quite a bit, at least during Paris Fashion Week? Would those qualify as an "exchange of ideas and opinions"? Plenty would like to think so, particularly many of the subjects themselves. But as for those who constantly complain about getting mobbed outside fashion shows when all they want is to breeze in glamorously without interruption, well... technically, they have a right to say no, and a right to press charges if they want. 

On a separate but related note: Article 9, which has been around for decades, also means good things for Kate Middleton's topless photos case. That photographer is toast.