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French privacy: Can I stop someone from taking a photo of my property?

Situations vary, but in some cases photographing a person’s property can be severely punished by law

Taking photographs of property is subject to certain rules Pic: Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock

Reader question: We live in a beauty spot and have seen people taking photos of our property. We presume they are tourists who liked the idyllic property but they did not ask for permission. Is there anything we can do about this if it happens again? 

Although it is frustrating for people to take photographs of your property without permission, people in France are generally allowed to do so except in cases where the building has its own image rights. 

If a property is protected by copyright – for example, because it was designed by an architect – image rights for the building will exist. They will either be in the hands of the original creator or passed on legally to the property owner.

 Permission to take – and use – a photo of such buildings must be asked for in advance and can be denied by the responsible party.

These are rare cases, though. In general, homeowners do not have image rights to their properties. 

This means you cannot deny somebody the possibility to take a photo of your property. France’s highest court ruled on this in 2004. 

It does not, however, provide blanket coverage for people to take photos of your property. They are only allowed to do so if it does not cause an ‘abnormal disturbance’ (trouble anormal) and therefore harm the property owner.

What counts as an ‘abnormal disturbance’?

Although this does not help you prevent people from taking photos of your property in the first place it provides a basis to take people to court.

What exactly counts as an ‘abnormal disturbance’ is ruled on a case-by-case basis by local courts, but generally includes taking photos that, if published, provide a detrimental effect on the property owner.

Examples include: 

  • Photos showing your address, or causing people to come and disturb the property owner

  • Photos that helped a burglary take place

  • Photos that harm your business 

In these circumstances, it is possible to take the photographer to court, but you should write a letter to them requesting they remove the photo before filing a complaint.

If they refuse, you can then take the matter to court, where a judge rules on the case. If they rule in your favour, you could be awarded damages alongside the photo being removed, depending on the impact the photograph had. 

Read more: Neighbour comes into my garden in France uninvited: what can I do?

Does this apply to all parts of my property? 

These rules only apply to the exterior parts of a property – people cannot take pictures of the inside of a property without the owner’s consent as, if they can be seen in the photos, this would constitute an illegal ‘invasion of privacy’. 

This includes if the property’s inside areas are clearly visible from a photo taken from the outside (eg. through a window). 

Article nine of France’s civil code states that people who take such photos could be liable to a year in prison and a fine of up to €45,000.

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