Taking Photos Without Permission is Now Illegal in Hungary, Photographers Outraged


Effective today, a new civil code in Hungary makes it illegal to take a photograph without obtaining permission from everybody in the photo, making street photographers’ and photojournalists’ jobs infinitely more complicated and opening the door for a landslide of litigation.

Reported first in The Guardian, the new law expands current regulations that prohibited the publication of images without consent, something justice ministry officials say “merely codifies existing court practice.”

Hungarian photographers disagree, however, calling the law both obstructive and, more importantly, vague. The real problem lies with that word, because the civil code doesn’t specify what exactly is considered illegal and what isn’t.

“Can we take photos of strangers: say people looking at a shop window?” asks photojournalist Ákos Stiller, speaking to The Guardian. “Do we shoot first and ask permission later?” Even judges, reports the paper, are ‘privately’ saying they have no clue how to judge cases under the new code.

Under the new law, both of the subjects in this photo could sue the photographer if he didn't ask their permission.

Under the new law, both of the subjects in this photo could sue the photographer if he didn’t ask their permission.

The chief issues with the law are two fold. First, the code opens the door for any random person on the street to file complaints anytime a photojournalist takes a photo with them in it. And second, this further complicates the photographing of police.

In Hungary reporters already have to blur out police men’s faces when they take their picture, something that many hoped this law would remedy by identifying police as “public actors.” Instead, the law makes it much easier for police and private security to keep photojournalists and even members of the public from documenting their actions.

“There is a great tradition of Hungarian photography, and we plan to continue it, but this law is not making our job easier,” Stiller said to The Guardian in closing. “Capa would be ashamed, or would do what he did: leave for somewhere the policemen have a face.”

Thus far, laws like this — and even the law requiring police men’s faces to be blurred — are far from universal. But with growing concerns regarding privacy, is this a glimpse into the rest of the world’s future? Let us know what you think in the comments.

(via The Guardian)

Image credits: Photographs by Attila Schmidt

Thanks for sending in the tip, Nathan!

  • Alexandra’s Corner

    Good for you! If I take my DSLR into a grocery store I am immediately asked to leave! So I can’t photograph someone at the cash register…..

  • steve

    Ahahahahahahaha this can’t be serious. I refuse to believe this is serious.

  • Roberto Spudić

    .. that’s not a public space, simple as that.

  • François

    This headline is click bait. The issue is one of publishing not photography itself. Many civil code countries (as opposed to English Common Law) have this.

  • Alex Krylov

    Isn’t it is the similar law in Belgium?

  • Ivor Wilson

    Riiiight, now we’re getting to the core of your problem. YOU prefer to not have people in your street scenes, therefore EVERYONE ELSE should do the same, yes?

  • Ivor Wilson

    Then it’s a completely misleading article, if the very first sentence is anything to go by :

    “…makes it illegal to *take a photograph* without obtaining permission from everybody in the photo”

  • Brandon Daughtry Slocum

    I refer you to the Facebook phenom known as The People of Wal-Mart. These shots are not taken by friends or family… just mean people with nothing better to do.

  • matpratta

    This law is plain stupid. If they wanted to limit what can or can’t be photographed, just do as we have here in Brazil: if you are in a public space (streets, public hospitals, whatever) you can (and is in right to) take photos or videos of the place, even if there’s people in it.
    You need to ask permission if you are in a private property or taking a photo specifically of someone.

  • Victor Biro

    This is going to make being a tourist a PITA, not to mention just about any sort of news photography. Can you imagine taking pictures of a sporting event: “Yes sir, you must get permission from everybody in the grandstand before you take any picture at the football game”

  • mthouston

    May I suggest you move to Hungary…….

  • ECRoyce

    I was in the window of the building you took a picture of and you did not ask my permission. I am suing.

  • lady

    In Hungary it’s also banned taking photos for JOURNALIST. There’s no freedom of speech. I you take a photo for example of a policeman hitting an innocent person, you commit a sin. It’s not just about artistic photography, politicians try to control the leaker proofs.

  • lady

    you should be an idiot. then retouch yourself from a surveillance camera. good luck.

  • ECRoyce

    I certainly won’t be going. What person, especially anyone with any photographic interest, but even one who doesn’t, goes on vacation and doesn’t take pictures?

  • Larissa

    I forgot about that! I can understand that.
    But in this case it’s an isolated person. I would agree that a law requiring a photographer to ask permission to photograph a single person or group of up to 5 (or whatever low number) could be made.
    In many cases, photographers will ask if it’s a single person.
    I’m talking photographers here, not just people with a camera phone.

  • Helen

    I’m trying to understand the implications of this to those of us who might visit Hungary as tourists. I love my photos of our trip to Hungary and I’m sure many of my shots inadvertently have people in the background. I wasn’t trying to take them but when there are crowds of tourists all visiting a famous site at the same time, it’s almost impossible to take a picture without having strangers in it. Does this mean tourists will not be allowed to take photos anymore? I’m actually planning another trip to Budapest and need to know if I should just leave my camera behind. What are the odds of actually being able to take any pics without accidentally including a stranger in the background?

  • I am Incognito

    Some of the greatest photos ever taken were of people who were unaware they were being photographed. Sad to think all future photographs will be staged and unnatural.

  • Larissa

    Well by now we shouldn’t really be surprised by people’s self-absorption.

  • John Tremblay

    and I certainly don’t want someone writing a song about me, or making a statue of me…wait. That would be cool actually.

  • John Tremblay

    so – in your world, the video of those cops in LA beating up this guy – would have been totally illegal, and allowed those idiots to get away with what they did.

  • SeoulFood

    Wait…you DON’T have a statue of yourself? What are you, some kind of primitive?!?!

  • Larissa

    we’re not talking about commissioned work. It would be weird if a complete stranger made a statue of you or wrote a song about you, just sayin’.. You could sue and then ask for the statue though as compensation.

  • msflaneur

    i do not agree with this policy its wrong, but surely personal/holiday snaps are not going to be in the public domain so no one will know and it won’t be an issue…

  • OtterMatt

    You do understand that there’s a thing called “public” outside, right? Don’t like it, wear a bag. Or better yet, stay home. Nobody owes you your undivided peace of mind and comfort at all times regardless of anyone else. Grow up.

  • harumph

    Downvotes have been disabled.

  • Smarten_Up

    Two solutions:
    – Do not go “out,” which is to say: “out in public..”
    – Or wear a burqa, whether you are male or female, it serves same purpose–hides “you” from public view (good luck with this one, the police are likely to question it!)

  • OtterMatt

    I think you’ve confused “needs of the few” with “whiny-bitch-fits-over-things-that-aren’t-actually-harming-me-at-all of the few”

  • graz85

    Do you realize that if it would be up to people like you, there would be ANY photographic memory of the past?!
    If you are so afraid to go in public, stay at home.
    I hope that if you are coherent with yourself, you also fight with all the supermarkets, shops, banks, ecc. that have cameras recording you and everyone else…and who knows that the man behind those cameras will not save the frame with your face, and use it for any reason?

  • Nagy Zoltán

    You clearly don’t understand the problem and I assume you don’t have a family with kids.

    I have never talked about street photography or city scape. I was talking about families who takes their pictures of tourist spots. This law is not just about the “professionals”, this is the Civil Code of Hungary.

  • Nagy Zoltán

    It’s not. You have to get a permission BEFORE the shoot from EVERYBODY who might happen to be on your pic. Event if it a picture of your family at a famous tourist spot. It’s about the shooting not publishing.

  • Nagy Zoltán

    That is the real problem exactly.

  • Venser

    Not in Canada, specifically Ontario. I took the photo, it is mine, and there’s literally nothing you can do about it.

  • csmif

    to make such comments makes me wonder why you are even on this website. Street photography and photojournalism are an absolutely MASSIVE and ESSENTIAL part of the history of modern photography. Have you ever even heard of folks like Bresson, Winogrand, Moriyama, Nachtwey, Erwitt, Frank, Klein, etc? They are some of the giants in our world. Had these laws applied to them, photography as we know it would be different. i find your comments so unbelievable that i have to wonder if you are trolling.

  • Venser

    I only shoot strangers in the street, it’s literally all I do. Legally it’s well within my right in Canada, regardless if you’re man, woman, or child.

    You see, I want people in my shoots otherwise it’s just an empty scene devoid of any life. I don’t ask permission because I don’t have to, they’re in public.

  • Granny

    But I think you could photograph someone at the cash register if you were outside the store looking in…then you would be in a public place

  • joshmolina2

    There have been a few voices in the comments making statements which indicate that they too, would neither like their picture taken by a stranger nor participate in taking pictures of strangers. Thats fine, and in fact, although I enjoy looking at street work, I can somewhat sympathise. Admittedly it would make me feel uncomfortable too if some stranger came up to me and took my photo out on the street. Some may even feel more than discomfort and find the act to be deeply offensive. That being said, why is it the states responsibility to protect you from being offended? Just like it is the individuals responsibility to deal with the natural consequences of their free expression, it is the individuals responsibility to deal with those whom they perceive as offensive, no one elses. It is a simple matter of free expression; something everybody says they value, but only until they themselves are offended. It is a little bit troubling that even within the photographic community, this concept is not thoroughly grasped. We are all entitled to our opinions regarding whether or not street photography is too invasive, but the minute you strong arm others through litigation, you have crossed a very dangerous line.

  • huntuckian

    Uh, no, thanks! We don’t need any more people fighting the freedom of press

  • Alexandra’s Corner

    I have kids, and this is precisely why this needs to stop. We’ll have to agree to disagree here because I don’t see any reason to be photographed in public by some random pervert…that’s it. You have to accept that not everyone will agree with you on this. A line needs to be drawn somewhere. Too many rude people around.

  • András Gime Gimesi

    Hey, PetaPixel! I am a Hungarian photographer, living in Budapest, HU EU. Do you know, that even the title of your article is a LIE!!!???

  • fuckoff

    dumbass; she’s not talking about random people taking pictures…

  • fuckoff

    so what? people knitting do not take picture of your face for “artistic” reasons…

  • fuckoff

    well, we have no desire to read more from, so get lost…

  • steve

    Take it up with the Guardian and all of the Hungarian photographers and journalists that they interviewed and quoted

  • fuckoff

    freakin moron!! do u know about public image? this is not about being in public, this is about having the possibility to control who’s taking picture of you and for what purposes (if it’s just random or commercial) the latter implying the person’s permission, which is absolutely normal…

  • Kaouthia

    What does that have to do with the point being made? One does not have to understand something in order for somebody else to enjoy it.

  • fuckoff

    completely off of point: this about picture of people taken without their consent for reasons other than private (commercial or artistic)..

  • fuckoff

    no you’re the troll….

  • Nagy Zoltán

    The Civil Code IS about random people taking pictures.

  • fuckoff

    to all of you not able to understand: this is not about forbidding public photos , but about asking people’s consent if this is to be used for commercial or artistic reasons (if it’s just you’re face on a random person’s pix who didn’t intent to get you this is different). Brainless retards.