Planning to shoot your film in a public area? Here some points to consider before you start, according to Matt Parritt, associate at law firm Harbottle & Lewis.
First you need to consider whether you are on public land. Many apparently public spaces, for example the London bridges, are actually privately owned. If the land is not public you will need the consent of the owner before accessing it.
If you are going to take up significant space on a public highway, you may need separate permission from a local council and/or the police – contact the relevant council’s filming office for guidance.
Next, consider whether any buildings or displays will be visible. There is a special exception in copyright law which means you do not need the permission of the owner of the building to film it (although if you want to film inside you will need permission). The same principle applies to any sculptures and artworks situated in a public place.
Logos, signs, trademarks and adverts are not covered by the same exception so you should avoid capturing them. If this is not possible, consider whether they appear in shot incidentally or prominently. Incidental use means that their inclusion is casual or of secondary importance and is not the focus of a shot.
This will need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, but if you are unsure you should take advice. Decide whether you actually need to clear the use before you approach the owner - if they decline permission it is difficult to claim the use is incidental.
If you are filming people, you should obtain written consent from anyone who will appear in shot. This can be in the form of a short statement confirming the individual has granted consent. If it is not possible to obtain specific consent, you should at least ensure that the area in which you are filming is clearly marked and warning notices are visible at entry points.
These should clearly state that filming is taking place, that by entering the area individuals are granting consent for their image to be used, and that if they do not want to grant consent they should inform a member of the production team or avoid the area. Take and keep photos of these signs in situ.
You should not include any images of people in situations which might be regarded as private (i.e. coming out of a fertility clinic) without their specific consent in writing and do not include images of children without the consent of a parent.
Where you cannot obtain consent, either specific or generic, you should carefully consider whether the individual in question is actually identifiable and whether they have an expectation of privacy. If in doubt, take steps to disguise the individual’s identity.
Finally, you should not use images of an individual or any which clearly feature a name or logo in a manner that might damage the reputation of the individual or brand. Remember that what you might think of as harmless could be damaging to a reputation (i.e. the head of a bank wrongly associated with a story about credit card companies charging excessive fees).
If in doubt on any of these issues you should take specialist advice. Local or regional filming agencies can also give you further guidance.
Matt Parritt is an associate at law firm Harbottle & Lewis (www.harbottle.com)