Multicopter and law (part 3): aerial photography

Until 1990, so-called aerial flights required a special permit from the authorities. Even though the corresponding regulation no longer exists, it is not allowed to take pictures of everything that comes in front of your lens from above. With a photographic drone in particular, it is easy to get a glimpse of areas that are actually protected from public view. Just as you shouldn’t try to take a snapshot of your neighbor over the fence equipped with a ladder and telephoto lens, you shouldn’t use a multicopter to get around a privacy screen either.

The legal asset that is easily violated in this way is the general right to privacy protected by the General right to privacy. It is divided into intimate sphere, private sphere and social sphere.

Encroachments on the privacy sphere are always illegal. For example, if I fly my multicopter to the third floor of a house and take a picture of a person in the window, the person concerned will be entitled to damages and compensation. In addition, I may even be liable to prosecution. According to Section 201a of the German Criminal Code, the so-called "paparazzi paragraph", The mere taking of a picture that violates the highly personal sphere of the person depicted is prohibited and is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment or a fine.

Private and social spheres

In the area of private and social sphere, the right of personality is characterized by conflicting interests. For his part, the photographer can invoke artistic, professional and ultimately general freedom of action. On the other hand, these rights are opposed by the legitimate interests of the person depicted. The result of a balancing to be carried out is always dependent on the individual case, whereby encroachments on the social sphere can be justified under lesser conditions.

The domestic and family sphere is more worthy of protection than the social and professional life of a person, which already takes place in part in public. For example, the distance to the motive and the quality of the recording must also be taken into account when weighing up the case. High-resolution photos can be infringing even at a rough distance because you can zoom in to see otherwise hidden details. According to a ruling by the German Federal Court of Justice (BGH Urt. v. 09.12.2003, Az. VI ZR 373. In the underlying case, aerial photos of a celebrity villa were taken from a helicopter and later published in a magazine.

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