Since a significant portion of my photographic work is done in Romania, the question arises as to what is legal and or ethical under Romanian laws and norms when it comes to street photography.
While professional photography in Romania has taken on greatly and has drawn a tremendous following, the legal system has not necessarily kept up with the way in which photographers are plying their trade. Thankfully, however, the legal system is based on the French one, with legislative codes and no precedents. This means that one only has to look at either the Penal Code or the Civil Code to find everything they need, rather than trawl through many parliamentary acts and court cases before figuring out whether a photograph of a couple on a park bench is breaking the law or not.
The flip-side of the coin is that these codes come with very little interpretation and judges have much more freedom to interpret the law as they see fit than in England and Wales, where they are bound by judicial precedent. Thus, Art. 73 of the Civil Code says that people have a right of self-image, which means that they have a right to choose how they are portrayed. However, some judges from Transylvania seem to view this right in the French tradition (Paris Court of Appeal, 27 February 1967), stating that people have absolute control over their physical image and must give permission for their image to be made public. This still allows us to take photos, but not to publish them in the public domain (what is the ‘public domain’ is another point of contention). However, other judges hold that the right to self-image means simply that you cannot change the presentation of the person in that photograph without their consent. So, in the extreme, you cannot take a photograph of someone and then photoshop their face onto a naked body without their permission.
Whatever the law states appears as a great point of contention even to lawyers. For now, there is an increasingly thriving current of street photographers touring the country’s favourite holiday spots or public gathering places and taking candid images, in the style of the early “Humans of New York” posts. Andrei Niculescu’s candid street photography and his tens of thousands of Facebook followers, and the repeated use of his works in the public press and TV, suggests that until the law is clarified the presumption remains in favour of the photographer.