Legal issues with photos in public environments

It would be interesting to get an overview of the legislation in different countries. Are there restrictions to how you can take pictures in a public environment?

For exemple, in Sweden the main issue is how you take the pictures. There is a strict law about video surveillance, which basically forbids all video surveillance with certain exeptions.

Taking a video sequence on a fixed mount camera (even on a vehicle) could be seen as video surveillance and therefore illegal. Taking exactly the same sequence with a handheld equipment isn’t part of the video surveillance legislation and therefore completly legal.
How the mapillary solution with a phone camera in a dashboard mount is classed isn’t clear yet, but @jesolem should know the status on that.

What are the legal issues in other countries?


Hi Harry

We don’t have details on rights on a global level. Near impossible for us to be properly informed on. There are however some general rules/rights.

Everyone has the right to take photos in public and share them. What the law regulates and may restrict is how you can mount cameras. The courts (Förvaltningsrätten, 2014, and later Kammarrätten, 2015) have ruled that it is OK to mount phones or cameras on bikes and cars, for example when mapping for Mapillary.

Many countries have “freedom of panorama” which grants the blanket right to take photos in public and publish/share them. There may however be rules on how you can mount, from where you take photos etc. Check with your local country. In many countries you can have the right to photograph, even if the state has not adopted freedom of panorama, but again check your local country.

Needless to say: I’m not a lawyer and cannot give you legal advice.

No lawyer out there can answer these questions on a global scale but if you are concerned, you should be able to get answers in your local area.

Interesting with the freedom of pnaorama link, as I understand it right is it illegal there to take pictures of pieces of art or cultural buildings.

BTW, I didn’t mean the Mapillary team should provide all info, but I assume there are users with knowledge about there country

What FoP gives is a blanket right to take photos. Just because such blanket right does not exist in a region does not mean it is not allowed. (Just that the legislation hasn’t adopted FoP.)

No major restrictions in Australia. If its in public or in the public view you can photograph it. Private property - ask property owner.
Photographs of buildings, statues, art etc in a public place. No problems, no copyright infringement.

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I think this is a rather important topic/issue for both Mapillary and its contributors.

One would think that at least in those countries where public street view services exist – Google Streetview being a good starting point – it’s ok to take pictures of public places / in public spaces. Of course it still might be regulated even then – I have no clue of reality, just guessing what the reality might/could be. This logic would make sense (to me at least).

In Finland:

In short, mapillarying is ok in all publicly accessible places with below noted limits. And I think same right & limitations apply to taking videos. I have also never heard that how a recording device is mounted would have any impact to these rights.

In more detail:

You can take pictures in all public spaces which includes all places to which there is free public access. This includes public spaces of shopping malls, libraries, lobbies/public spaces of government offices and (even) public hospitals and alike. The only limitation in these kinds of “fully” public spaces is that official security guards have the right to remove individuals from such places – and so this would end one’s photographing. I don’t know where would be limits for e.g. something like “grounded removal from (such) public space”.

Slight limitation applies to taking pictures in individual shops, restaurants, etc in which you are allowed to photograph by default – but businesses are allowed to choose their customers and are allowed to essentially forbid taking pictures based on that.

There is also a concept of semi-public space, which includes among others offices and industrial facilities. For those you need a permission.

Finally private spaces have a privacy limitation which also lead to a requirement for permission to take pictures. This includes publicly visibleplaces that are considered private. This might include e.g. backyards of people. IIRC there was a case not so long back where someone had been pissed off to Google enough to make a case out of their Streetview having showed their backyard. It might (or might have not) included something considered more private such as some naturalist activity – I can’t remember – but there was a bit of a fuss, at least some media noise about it. I really can’t remember if it went to court or not.

Simple web searches have good chunk of information about all this both in English and of course in Finnish. Specific pages that I checked to verify what I remembered (some of which was wrong) were this and this (both in Finnish).

With the above, I would assume that information about many individual countries is by now available online with similar searches. And I guess people mapillarying in different countries and even perhaps Mapillary at some point should do such searches to at least give an idea what the situation is in different countries. This is a good thread to share that information.


Congratulations @jesolem. You fixed it :slight_smile: now it is 100% certain that you can use Mapillary in a car in Sweden

There is also a great fact sheet here regarding ‘street photography’ in Australia

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