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There are some amazing federal buildings in Australia, with their own unique designs.

However, a friend was saying he had no idea what he was photographing in Sydney and took a photo of the Federal Police building. He was approached and told he wasn't allowed to do so.

I gather there are similar laws in parts of the US, and Germany, but we couldn't find evidence of this for Australia?

  • Could it be not related to it being a federal building, but to being specifically a police building? Police buildings could ask for more security measures than, say, a public works office. It could even be that the issue is not the building and they want to prevent the public from identifying police officers. – SJuan76 Nov 1 '17 at 22:05
  • If in doubt, ask. Pop into the lobby (assuming it isn't a secure building) and ask the security guard or building commissionaire on duty if photographing the building is acceptable. – Jim MacKenzie Nov 1 '17 at 22:09
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    Personally I'd call 911 to get a third person to settle the matter. As far as I understand Commonwealth countries generally don't restrict photography in any public spaces. – JonathanReez Nov 2 '17 at 0:30
  • There would not be a problem photographing the exterior of a police station in the USA. lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/criminalizing-photography – Andrew Lazarus Nov 2 '17 at 1:02
  • I was allowed, as an ordinary tourist, to take photos inside and outside the federal parliament building in Australia. I would be very surprised if they had any restrictions on photography of the outside of any building. – user16259 Nov 2 '17 at 5:39
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No, there are no laws at all in Australia which blanket prohibit photographers from photographing Federal or government buildings - there are provisions in the law (Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952, Defence Act 1903) for restricting certain activities around certain areas, but these are related to defence activities and not Federal government offices or police buildings.

What you have basically run into is a common issue with the police and photographers the world over - the police often tend to overstep their authority and make claims regarding photography where there is no basis in law.

I suggest reading "Street Photographers Rights" by the Arts Law Centre of Australia, or "NSW Photo Rights - Australian Street Photography Legal Issues" by Andrew Nemeth.

  • Note: In some jurisdictions there can be legal impediments to publishing such photos. For example the building's owners may claim copyright. This doesn't affect your rights to take a photo but affects where you may store that photo and how you may use that photo. – RedGrittyBrick Nov 2 '17 at 10:02

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