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Are 'No Photography' Policies Legal?

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

"No photography" policies sound like the province of museums, live theater, or Dr. Frankenstein revealing his monster to the public. But many retail businesses enforce no-photo policies as well.

Are these policies legal?

Generally speaking, yes. Your business can use a no-photo policy to protect the privacy of your customers, or even to protect your trade secrets.

No Photos of Your Customers

One justification for a "no photography" policy is that it exists to protect the privacy of other customers who don't wish to be captured digitally or on film while shopping.

For example, one outdoor shopping mall in Provo, Utah, enforces a policy that forbids amateur and professional on-site photography, even news coverage, without pre-approval by management.

The mall's policy states it's in order to "protect the security and proprietary nature of their tenants and their customers," and to protect business owners' interests as well.

No Photos of Products

Although you might understand why a camera wouldn't be allowed in the testing labs of a high-tech company like Apple or Microsoft, you wouldn't expect to get slapped for taking pictures in a supermarket.

But even popular supermarket chains like Trader Joe's have no-photography policies, and these stores may use them to protect trade secrets.

Despite these stores showing their low, low prices and fresh produce in pluripotent forms of advertising, a company may not want its competitors to know how its produce is arranged or displayed.

But What About Customer Rights?

Private business policies can legally forbid any number of activities, even bringing children into a store, without violating a customer's legal rights.

Businesses can legally turn away customers who they feel aren't dressed properly and who they believe won't pay. And as long as it is not a pretext for illegal discrimination, businesses can kick out customers for not following their no-photography policy.

Remember, photography isn't a constitutionally protected right, and although some businesses may choose to invite photos, your business can have a legally enforceable policy that shutters shutterbugs.

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