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!

  • TheGrittyEdge

    “On 23 October 1989, Hungary again became a democratic parliamentary republic, and is recognized today as a developed country.” Pssssssst…. Someone tell Wikipedia that this statement is no longer valid….. “developed”? Developed into what? I do pity oppressed people that have no choice but to live under such dictatorships…

  • TheGrittyEdge

    “pro Photog”??? Pro cry baby maybe…. Pro TROLL maybe…. But pro photographer? I seriously doubt it… Dont tell me… you got a low end Nikon with a kit lens for Christmas and all the sudden you are a “pro”…. riiiiight…. off ya go.

  • Csaba

    And it’s not only that he has those photos on his hard drive, but he even made those public on his blog… Do I sense a little hypocrisy there?
    He should be forced to ask for permission just so he would realize what this idiotic civil code is all about.

  • TheGrittyEdge

    Like someone else pointed out above, the shots you have on your blog from Disney’s Christmas Parade include hundreds of people. According to your own words here, you have invaded the privacy of each and everyone of them. Also, if you don’t agree with or fully condone advise given by someone else, DON’T USE IT AS FILLER FOR YOUR BLOG! .. YOU.. are a hypocrite my dear.

  • Nate Opgenorth

    Dumbest argument ever. Anyways photo ID’s have strict requirements for backgrounds, framing, etc. depending on what its for, the agency, etc. Guess you should get off facebook then hunh?

  • Vin Weathermon

    You should read up on a few other articles about the region. This is not a “subjects rights” law. This is the precursor to control of all media. This should scare you, not make you cheer. Super swell you want to protect celebrities from paparazzi, but this isn’t an anti-paparazzi law.

  • Vin Weathermon

    Alexandra, I looked at your photography website. Although they interiors of wealthy persons homes are lovely, I notice that all your work is entirely devoid of people. I also imagine that if you photograph wealthy people’s homes, you may be very protective of wealthy people’s privacy and very anti-street, anti-everything but whatever wealthy people want. It is an interesting niche. Continuing to argue that the Hungarian anti-media (aka get permission from everyone in any photograph) is super swell, you are also indicating that you believe this would never affect you either. What if the next law they came up with was you couldn’t photograph anything without permission of the company that owns it? Every one of the pots in your kitchens for example? This analogy is what should scare you. You have missed the entire point of that law. It is not to make the people who hate getting their photos taken happy…it is to hide what is coming next.

  • Vin Weathermon

    I tried to respond to your other posts with some kind of kind reason, but every single one of your posts make you sound like you are a petulant slightly mentally challenged child. And with that said, I guess there is no point in “correcting you” in any intelligent way since you aren’t even capable of putting that knowledge to use.

  • another democrat

    darling, your mistaking your fantasies for reality.

    a picture is the property of the photog, not the subject’s…

    and you call yourself a pro…

    nice trolling job, btw.

  • Yaseen

    Ι fear of a future, where pictures of our private moments are shared (by us) everywhere, yet no-one is allowed to take pictures in public for the shake of privacy.

  • clair estelle

    wow, what a law for photographers!

  • guest

    I am guessing that glassholes will be stopped by people invading their privacy capsicum spraying them, ripping their spyware from their faces and stamping on it and any other means necessary. I guess a lot of glassholes will end up never leaving the house.

  • guest

    So what? Personal rights and privacy trump “Oohh pretty” every time.

  • amde

    How about just making it if the people are identifiable you can’t do it? Honestly, I am sick to f*cking death of people invading other people’s privacy and pretending its their right. In fact, an awful lot of people are getting sick of it. Get over yourselves. It’s not your right to publish photos of other people, it’s not your right to film people and people will respond accordingly.

    The fact that you have been getting away with invading other people’s personal space, privacy, boundaries and rights for so long doesn’t mean that can’t change.

    If you won’t stop attacking people they are going to defend themselves. Get used to it.

  • amde

    Are banks etc using those images for personal gain, putting them on blogs and humiliating people with them?

  • amde

    Indeed the Me Me Me! self importance of self aggrandising tw*ats who think they’re artists is astonishing. They can’t resist being achingly precious when it comes to invading other people’s privacy and attacking their rights in the name of supposed “art”. If you feel like assaulting other people with your invasion of their privacy the only response I could give would be – go ahead and see what happens then!

  • amde

    Yeah, another couple of photos in the ten billion already taken that five people and an arty farty self proclaimed “artiste” thought were terribly important luvvy won’t be added to the collection. Horrendous loss for humanity.

  • amde

    I suggest you stop harassing people in public.

  • Mako

    ? You’re joking right ? Google Henri Cartier Bresson > Images

  • amde

    It’s bizarre. There is just no point in having downvotes which aren’t visible.

  • amde

    I care. Try and take my photo in public without my permission. See what happens when you attack me.

  • amde

    They’re being attacked. Not offended. It is NOT free expression to attack my right to privacy.

  • amde

    ? You’re joking, right? Google the right to not be assaulted in public and the right to privacy. Nobody cares if you don’t get to invade people’s privacy with your w*nky pictures, except you and a few other art school drop out bloggers. I won’t be checking on this ridiculous thread again. I will end with this. Attack my right to privacy in public. I dare you. See what happens.

  • Ivor Wilson

    Internet Hard Man Alert!
    Internet Hard Man Alert!
    Internet Hard Man Alert!

  • Ivor Wilson

    Internet Hard Man Alert!

  • Ivor Wilson

    Is every street-photographer doing any or all of the above? No, and you most certainly cannot prove otherwise.

  • Ivor Wilson

    It is “our” right, if done in a public place, and as long as photogs aren’t making a nuisance of themselves, most people don’t give a damn. Only self-important goons like yourself seem to think they’re special enough.

    “If you won’t stop attacking people they are going to defend themselves. Get used to it.”

    Then *you’d* better get used to the criminal damages charges that will follow any such action.

  • Ivor Wilson

    Your right to privacy is negated as soon as you step into a public place. Do you have this same combative attitude towards security cameras?

  • joshmolina2

    I think you need to outline how you define attack. By the sound of it, me… and the dictionary, use a completely different definition.

    You say “attack my right”, by which I assume you mean “infringing upon your right”, in which case you are just factually wrong. You dont have a right to privacy in a public setting. If I came into your house and started snapping photos of you while your in the shower… thats a different story because its your property. But no, in a public space you dont, and ought not have a right to privacy. If you so desperately want to keep something private, in public, that is your responsibility. So cover up I guess…

  • mthouston

    I suggest, you kiss my ass….

  • Guy Clericy

    They learn fast the frivolous way to steal money that we have here in the USA

  • Stacy Young

    Are they going to ban Google Glass too?

  • Aiham Dib

    could be,

    it needs philosophers to write modern laws rather than advocates.
    the mobile media and its applications, and the social platforms like facebook . means that humanity totally moved out the classic bases. and it needs a deep gaze through.
    today we are in the virtual world as if we living in glass houses. we are in our own but we are visible. so the privacy and transparency and publicity are fused .

    we may need rather to be less allergic to transparency rather than veiling ourselves in a world where info transfer and sharing are becoming a natural fact .

    we need can notice two models :

    one ruled by advocates and corporations:
    where it is all about complicating the things and making money . this by making harder laws and harder orders.
    there will be a day where it is not enough you getting approval from a person to make his or her portrait , but you will need to collect the signature and approval of the hair dresser and the fashion house, and even the owner’s signature of the building at the back ground or even the architect !
    this is against the nature of things. but it keep the power in the classic hands.
    and it wont be a strange thing if one day the camera or cell makers will ask for a percent or share in every picture taken by their brands apparels , specially in a world where all corporations got fused or holding shares with each others.

    2- the second models is simple :
    do and share cuz this is the natural thing in new media age. this will make creativity boom. but advocate will lose lot of business . but can win only based on certain cases and acclaims.
    corporations will hate this .

    we need to notice one very important thing.
    the law up here in the article is not only about a specific photographic practice. but reflecting a chemical sample of how the whole world chemistry is a;; about. and how dangerous things can be for individuals.

    practical example:
    my face book page is private but visible . so if i have a picture kissing an x-girl this is my own history and story and i have the right to have it in my OWN SPACE.. but this own space is visible.
    the radiation, visibility, and many other issues need to be redefined philosophically . not beneficiary. the human space in the extendable -or elastic- virtual age .

    as image maker it is easy to make a law that make life harder…
    but how about journalists or word, or poets or writers or painters.
    all those productive skills that can be based on experience of reality .
    it is only photographer who can be spot red-handed making an interpretation, or impression of reality . while a poet who can make a whole poem about a scene or face or event.will be able to run away with his or her ( catch ) !!!
    i guess in a modern sophisticated world we need to invest what humanity already established as knowledge. and going back to the stone ages.
    photography been acclaimed as art since 70s and it runs the whole spectrum from conceptual to the illustrative. which means putting photography under the policeman instant interpretation is a mass-human crime

  • amde

    No, it’s not. And now the law is going to make sure you know that, at least in one place. Bleat bleat, police, mummy, waaaaahhh. The police don’t care if an art school drop out gets his camera shoved up his ar*e. They literally do not care. And there are nowhere near enough of them to do anything about it even if they did. Go right ahead and try to sue me you vicious little bully. Good f*cking luck. You’re a cowardly little bully who gets upset when you get punched in the mouth as a direct result of your bullying. Get used to it. Come near me with a camera in public, bully. I dare you.

  • amde

    Yep. Just like everywhere else, shortly.

  • amde

    Hard woman. Could definitely take you cu nt.

  • amde

    A wee can of spray right in the eyes would hurt, I’m told. A knife to the b*llocks is terrible, so they say. I’ve heard say that bullying pieces of trash who think they can get away with attacking women are often surprised by things like that.

  • amde

    Don’t have to. Just has to be the possiblity of one bullying little douche canoe like you out there. Hope we meet in person, you bullying little cu nt.

  • Sundra Tanakoh

    Well, looks like I will pass on Budapest this year and head for Spain instead. Sorry Hungary, I will spend my tourist $’s someplace else!

  • Not you

    2013 tourist record in Hungary, 2014 will be even better. Soooo nobody really gives a sjit about you going to boring Spain. Please stay out of my country and take your worthless dollars to Barcelona, they need it, they cannot run their country and fix their economy like we did. We really can’t use close minded individuals like yourself who cannot empathize with people who think differently.

  • Not you

    And please get a haircut while you’re in Spain. The 70s are long gone.

  • Sojourner X

    You may just want to stay in side then….forever

  • Alexandra’s Corner

    What IS “Democratic” about infringing on someone else’s rights exactly? All you talk about is “me, me, me & my rights” as a photographer…when that’s not even your day job, yet you completely ignore the RIGHTS of other people? How? on what planet is THAT democratic in anyway?

  • Alexandra’s Corner

    You know what? for as long as this is not made clear “where” it needs to be made clear, none of it will change. You all complain on a comment section under an article that doesn’t even include the entire text of the law hoping for what? 100% agreement? did you forget that other people have a right to have an opinion too? do you think the comments here will change anything? they will not. IF/WHEN you want something to change, you have to BACK IT UP with facts from both sides, and clearly state each point so there is no confusion left on each side. It’s a lot easier to be paranoid, than take the correct action to change a situation. It takes work, and it takes patience, and it takes surveying your market, and it also takes agreement from BOTH sides of the table. BTW, I am from Romania originally, Hungary’s “dearest” neighbor! Guess what, when we had enough of “communism” we got out in the streets and freed ourselves from it! Unfortunately, we also learned the hard way that US Type “capitalism” does not work in Romania, and will never work. It screwed it up far worst than Communism ever did! Mass stupidity never accomplished anything productive. I don’t live there anymore, and have no plans to ever visit again, however, lack of brains cannot be cured unless people are SPECIFIC in what they want, and are using empathy, common sense, manners, modesty and most of all RESPONSIBILITY towards their actions. For each action there is a consequence; IF the Hungarian Gov decided to do this, that is the result of to many happy snappers pissing people of. I can assure you that not everyone in Hungary is happy to be photographed by some jerk! Having a camera is not an excuse to annoy someone else, or infringe on their rights. The reason more and more of these laws will appear everywhere not just in Hungary, IS because of mass LACK of manners. Look at the comments on PetaPixel in general: people use profanities, curse words, insult people they don’t even know, they discount other people’s opinions, they talk about their rights as if they were the ONLY rights that mattered, and someone else’s rights were to be trashed if one couldn’t take a stupid picture and so on. Do you call this a responsible way to have a conversation? is this how your parents taught you speak to others? I simply DISAGREE with taking photos of someone you don’t know without their consent. I had someone at Disney once asking to take a photo of my daughter, I said no. She asked, she wasn’t a guy, a guy would have taken that photo without asking; just because he felt like it! THIS kind of rudeness is going to get you these types of LAWS. Being POLITE never hurt anyone, but it seems to be a quality many guys avoid having. Or using. You get what you give. I am done with this thread.

  • Rogério Salgado-Martins

    Listen up, you crazy psycho, I’d gladly exert my rights and if you attacked me, an you’re suggesting, you’d be locked up and do all a favor.

  • Alexandra’s Corner

    Vin, I am an interior photographer; I don’t photograph people other than my kids. I have zero interest in any kind of people photography. To do my job however, I need a property release signed by all parties involved, and my work licensed to every product you see in those kitchens; from the counters to the floors each manufacturer license these photos. It is a form of product photography. I shoot for interior designers and architects, not for rich people. Sometimes flooring companies and kitchen cabinet companies. I have a vast terms and conditions form every time I shoot something, and each of these photos is specifically licensed to whomever is using it, where and for how long. Everything I do in photography aside from my hobby of macro photography shooting flowers, requires forms to be signed by all parties involved.

    More on licensing here:

    I have no complains about having documents signed before clicking my shutter; it is a normal business practice. IF I see a house myself while say….taking a walk at the beach, that I would like to photograph, I do two things: 1. I try to see if anyone is home, I introduce myself, I explain what I do for a living, and I ask politely if I can photograph their property. If they no, I say “thank you for your time”, and I am out of there, if they yes, then we both sign a property release form which explains what I am doing with the photos, and protects both parties from accidents that can happen while Im there, then I shoot, and everyone is happy. Sometimes they are the one submitting my work to magazines to be featured, or to feature those who designed/remodeled/build their home. And 2: I may send them a little postcard in the mail with what I do, and explain what I would like to do in a short letter, if they respond, once again the forms come out, we sign, then I take my tripod and camera out. I don’t take other people for granted.

    Everything is legal, and all parties know what they’re into. It’s called “proper business practice”.

  • Ivor Wilson

    OK, you’ve piqued my curiosity… what would you do, exactly?

  • manu abecassis

    These Alexandra is too invasive on this blog, let’s sue her because she write on half witted arguments :)

  • manu abecassis

    In general rules are made when people lack of tact intelligence or good attitude. But such law is quite restrictive. I am very surprised that this was voted. There are plus and minus for everything. Whatever country we are I see that freedom and rights get limited. Even if i can understand this law i am against it as it will in it’s essence be a blow to photographers.

  • Click

    As a student photographer this saddens me and for me is akin to book burning. Photographs taken of people without them knowing are so much more natural than if you asked first. If you do that they become awkward and self aware, or posey, and all the magic is lost. I can see this law being applicable in situations such as upskirt shots where the photographer genuinely does deserve some kind of punishment, but making it a catch-all law is very unfair to photographers, professional and amateur alike. Nobody complains about their image being captured on dozens of CCTV cameras on a daily basis. Why should they be so bothered with photographers and their much less frequent interactions? I can see this affecting Hungary’s tourism industry negatively also. If I had potential lawsuits coming at me from all angles even for a quick tourist snap, I’d be putting it at the bottom of my list.