Wednesday, August 02, 2006

No photos please, we're Australian

Melbourne's Southbank shopping centre wants to ban tourists and shoppers from taking photos in the shopping centre -- and even Australia's conservative Prime Minister, John Howard, thinks they're going too far.

But unfortunately there are no laws laying out freedom in privately-owned but public spaces like shopping centres. Because they are privately owned, the centre management is legally permitted to demand virtually any conditions they choose, regardless of whether they are reasonable or not.

The problem (apart from the stupidity of thinking that taking photographs of public buildings is a terrorism threat) is that the law doesn't distinguish between truly private property, like your house and office, and public property that just happens to be privately owned. Once a property owner issues a general invitation for anyone and everyone to enter his property, common sense tells us that the property takes on the characteristics of public property.

The shopping centres want to have their cake and eat it too: they claim that there is no expectation of privacy in the shopping centre because it is a public space, and therefore they can photograph and film visitors, but then turn around and declare that for "privacy reasons" shoppers aren't allowed to take photos. That's just nonsense, but unfortunately it is legally-protected nonsense.

Recently, employees at Flinders Street train station were criticised for abusing Japanese tourists who took photos of the famous Flinders Street clock. The train company defended the practice by playing the terrorism card: what if terrorists took photos of the famous landmark?

Well, what if they did? It's not like the clock is a secret. It's on maps and in books and everything. In any case, these imaginary terrorists could simply walk less than 100 metres down the street to a tourist souvenire shop and buy postcards showing photos of Flinders Street station.

1 comment:

Sphenisciformal said...

IMO the only reasonable way these places could ban photography would be if they licenced the premises as a private club and sold temporary "memberships" at the entrances.

...oh shit. Have I just given birth to yet another way in which the Grey Men mentality can track and control the personal activities of the public? Erk.