Police claim speed-camera images "copyrighted"

22 July 2009

It's appears to be such a piss-poor attempt to subvert justice, it's laughable. The Newspaper reports that East Sussex Police are trying to block the publication of images taken by a speed camera because they are "copyrighted material". The reason? A motorcyclist used the images to prove in court he wasn't speeding in a 30 mph zone and had the case was thrown out.

The Newspaper, a website which covers motoring issues with a political slant, published the two images after motorcyclist Peter Barker took East Sussex Police to court over the issue last year. Then last month, Barker received a solicitor's letter from East Sussex County Council on behalf of the police:

"It has been brought to our attention that the photographs from the Gatso camera, produced for your recent court case, have been published on TheNewspaper.com website. The content of these photographs are the property of Sussex Police and publication of them is a breach of copyright. They should be removed from the website forthwith. If they are not removed further action may be contemplated."

Um. You'll be hard-pressed to find a definition of copyright that could stretch to cover speed camera images, either in the dictionary or as stated by the Government. That's why we're reasonably happy to re-produce both the images on Bitterwallet:

Barker believes that the local council and police are trying to ban the photographs to prevent motorists discovering they can use the the images themselves to check the vehicle's speed against the radar reading. Actually this knowledge is reasonably widespread and has been for years, so the motivations of the police and council remain a mystery.

Speed cameras use radar to determine whether a vehicle is travelling over a preset speed; if it is, it takes two photographs at a set time apart - in the case of this camera, that interval was half a second. The distance travelled by the vehicle in that time can be determined using the road markings at these sites, so the speed of the vehicle can also be measured. The spacing between the road markings varies from site to site, and it's impossible to know without physically measuring the intervals in this instance - but the average spacing across the country is five feet, and if that was the case here then we reckon Barker was barely travelling 27 mph, never mind breaking the law.

There's plenty of information online about how to measure your actual speed based on the images - the biggest hurdle seems to be getting hold of them. What will be interesting in this scenario will be how far East Sussex Police pursue Cooper in the name of copyright.

[The Newspaper]

TOPICS:   UK News   Motoring

38 comments

  • Tom P.
    Bastards caught me for "speeding"....doing 37 in a 30mph road. Have to pay £60 and sit THREE hours in some crap Speed Awareness "workshop"
  • Warren J.
    Bastards caught me for “speeding”….doing 37 in a 30mph road. Have to pay £60 and sit THREE hours in some crap Speed Awareness “workshop” Perhaps had you been driving within the speed limit they'd have left you alone?
  • Dave
    Re 1st post - what a shock - who'd have thought you'd get a ticket for actually breaking the law?! Madness.
  • Craig
    "Re 1st post - what a shock - who’d have thought you’d get a ticket for actually breaking the law?! Madness." I know, next they'll be having some kind of "road fund tax" or something.....
  • Matt
    Interesting. The Copyright Act says the (first) copyright owner is the creator. So the copyright owner could arguably be the motorist who triggerred the camera and also "created" the picture by putting their vehicle in the frame.
  • Jack
    @Tom Oh and they get you for parking on double yellow lines too, the swines! But really, most of these 30 and 40 zones are a joke, I'm just glad there is no 'traffic calming' in my area at the moment, apat from the bloody town closure between 11 and 5 for cars, so people can pretend they are in mainland Europe sitting in the streets
  • no,I'mspartacus
    Why are they called speed bumps, when they slow you down?
  • StatingTheObvious
    @no,I'mspartacus Because you're not funny?
  • The M.
    lets put it this way: police are wankers speed cameras are shit people who speed deserve to die end of story
  • Paul
    I don't really understand why you would think that they are not covered by copyright?
  • Sean
    If someone takes a photograph of me I would assume that the copyright belongs to me unless I state otherwise.
  • Pure-Klenz
    you tarts!
  • matt b.
    "If someone takes a photograph of me I would assume that the copyright belongs to me unless I state otherwise." You might assume that, but you'd be flat out wrong.
  • Pure-Klenz
    @Matt Bee - Are you some sort of expert?
  • me
    i'd go with the argument of the motorist being the creator of any work, the police camera is public property so wouldn't of thought any individual could lay claim to it.
  • Lumoruk
    lol the copyright is with whoever created it or clicked the camera to take the picture, in this case Gatso is the copyright holder
  • numberwang
    /\ LOL how are speed cameras "public property"?
  • sam s.
    police pick and choose thier criminals. they like to target the non white sector. they like to be in control because of their power of the law which sits on their side. just a bunch of big headed gits.........
  • sb
    @Pure-Klenz.. He might be.. but hes definitly right. The person taking the photo is the copyright holder. Interesting to see who owns them in the case of an automatic device taking the photo.. Im guessing no one, meaning this is fine.
  • ibiza
    After losing the speeding case - I am amazed they did not represent the pictures to the court saying this psychopath was riding his motorcycle backwards the wrong way up a street!! Talking of who owns pictures - it seems the police seem to think THEY own them if you take one of them. As you are likely to be arrested as a potential terrorist - or for being too tall just to get a chance to shine the light in your eyes! http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/15/tall_photographers/ http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/22/kent_police/ Lastly, it will be interesting to see what the police really think of the rights associated with photographers and their photographs when these said budding terrorist protest on the 15th of August. The police will have to be in their best behaviour, as there could be camera's there.
  • thebrowns98
    Re the first post - Tom Pickering did NOT get a sppeding ticket - He was sent to a speed reduction seminar which cost him £60 as an alternative to the normal £60 fine AND 3 points - These seminars include talks from people who have had sons/daughters killed by idiots doing 37mph in 30 limits. Iyt's 30 for a reason!!!
  • Rpb
    I'm amazed by the people who are so 'against speeding' seeing it in a black and white manner. I will present an alternative view. Road deaths are at an all time low (including the year when records first begun and there were about 50 cars on the road) Cars are the safest they have ever been. Speed limits are being reduced rather than increased. More cameras are going up. Sounds suspiciously like entrapment to me. Things in life are never black and white. take a 30mph area for example. A shitty 25 year hgv driven by a tired half wit carrying 20 tonnes of goods is allowed to do 30mph. A brand spanking new super safe volvo driven by a racing driver with razor sharp reflexes is surely 'safer' yet still allowed to do only 30. Speeding limits are a joke., they cannot possibly ascertain a safe speed for all vehicles.
  • Paul S.
    @Paul / LumorUK / sb - the definition of copyright in all instances is very specific; it refers to a piece of work that is artistic or creative in nature, one achieved through the application of craftsmanship. There may be other legals reasons the publication of the images to be suppressed - their use in a current investigation or upcoming court case - but copyright simply isn't one of them.
  • well w.
    Sounds to me like the police are trying to pervert the course of justice. Nothing new then.
  • cctv o.
    The Freedom of information act gives anyone the right to obtain images of any cctv camera for a nominal fee (we charge £30 per camera), if they believe their privacy has been breached and they can supply fairly accurate dates and times as to when they thought someone (camera) had taken an image of them.
  • Tommy J.
    Surely then, if the police are claiming copyright violations have been made, Mr Barker could be equally pedantic, and take legal action against the police for using his image in a commercial manner? As a photographer, I am well aware of the requirements surrounding photography used in a commercial manner, and one of these requirements is for a signed model release form from the subject of a picture. I presume Mr Barker didn't supply said form, and therefore the police are acting illegally in using his image without permission. It would never stand up, but it would be bloody funny to see them fight it out.
  • Dave S.
    If you are doing 30Mph and hit me crossing the road, there is an 80% chance I'll survive, If you are doing 40mph, there's a 100% chance you'll be 400 meters down the road before I even contemplate crossing the road.
  • Paul S.
    Bloody hell Tommy, I hadn't thought of that - a model release form. Genius :)
  • ben
    i got a speeding ticket in sheffield for 44MPH in a 40MPH Zone downhill without any identification of a camera a fews back...3 points and £60 fine..
  • Matt
    Surely if the police are trying to stop people seeing these pictures, then they are violating the data protection act, as everybody is entitled to have access to materials that include them, by law.
  • yes H.
    I have copyright (c) signs on my numberplates thus meaning the police cannot use images of them without my written permission :o)
  • Seamus
    "...but the average spacing across the country is five feet, and if that was the case here then we reckon Barker was barely travelling 27 mph, never mind breaking the law." Maybe someone should go and measure the spacing in this case before assuming it is a distance that it is not.
  • Paul S.
    Given that Barker had the accusation of speeding thrown out of court, it's reasonable to assume the maths involved indicates he wasn't speeding. Regardless, I pointed out that based on the average spacing then Barker's speed was about 27mph, and I did include the caveat "the spacing between the road markings varies from site to site, and it’s impossible to know without physically measuring the intervals in this instance".
  • Anon
    You could try playing the police at their own game!! Copyright your reg plate and if you get done for speeding, would they able to produce the picture in court without breaching your copyright???
  • Lynn R.
    Of course, all such images and anything else that the police hold like this are subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act. Copyright and Data Protection Act are also overridden in the the case of a criminal allegation in court so had to be released to assist in the case. Mind you, the CPS ALWAYS claim copyright for ANYTHING which may actually assist the defence and will shout Data Protection Act if you ask for a policeman's notebook for instance even though it MUST be released in connection with a criminal charge. Whether Mr Barker was speeding or not (and he was found not guilty) the police are so narrow sighted in their pursuit of the big cash bonanza that they really don't care about the potential of a wrongful conviction. Remember those who shout at the fact that speed kills. Let them consider the effects of a driving ban on a family which may result in loss of job-home-breakup of family etc when a case is shoved through despite it being wrong.
  • Kevin
    The copyright does belong to the police, but as has been said anyone wanting a copy is entitled to it, especially in such circumstances when it comes to a legal defence. The police can sell such pics and videos to media companies as they are the copyright holders. -I have copyright (c) signs on my numberplates thus meaning the police cannot use images of them without my written permission :o)- In which case they can stop you and fine you for having an illegal numberplate. There are very strict standards when it comes to what is and isn't allowed. And additional text like that is unlikely to pass the test. No legitimate company would put that on for you. Those who would would only be creating vanity plates which are not road legal.
  • elliott
    "Interesting. The Copyright Act says the (first) copyright owner is the creator. So the copyright owner could arguably be the motorist who triggerred the camera and also “created” the picture by putting their vehicle in the frame." if that is the case, wouldnt it make the photo copyrighted by the motorist, therefore the police cannot reproduce the image to use as evidence? if there is no evidence, then he is innocent. hmm
  • PJ
    Tom Pickering, howcome you don't care about ki8lling someone's daughter or son? For f*** sake, if you go at FIVE miles above 30 an 80% chance of survival changes to an 80% chance of death of a child if you hit him/her - and you were going almost at 40! Speed limits are there for a reason. If you want to be a crap driver, DON'T BUY A BLOODY MOTOR VEHICLE!

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