29 September 2014 6 min read

In this blog we tackle some of the questions posed to us by our good friends at www.autobulbsdirect.co.uk and www.hids4u.co.uk in relation to the legal issues arising from the use of in-car cameras.

In light of rapidly evolving technology, the decreasing price of technology and the increasing number of road users, it’s hardly surprising that the number of drivers fitting in-car cameras (or purchasing cars with in-car cameras) is quickly rising. Why? You might ask. The answer is surprisingly simple – it’s often far cheaper than a hike in your insurance premium for an accident that wasn’t your fault!

Of course, we are all aware of the rules of the road; the driver going in to the back of the other driver is almost always as fault. Yet this not always the case, especially if the driver in front had made the dangerous (and foolish) decision to switch lanes at the very last second, leaving you unable to brake in time and causing a crash in this way. Common sense naturally says “but these cases must be 1 in a million, surely nobody would do that on purpose?” Well… you’d be wrong.

As an unfortunate side-effect of the “no win, no fee” compensation culture, a small number of fraudsters are engineering road traffic collisions in order to submit false personal injury claims. In fact, Crimestoppers estimates that this results in over £400 million of fraudulent claims per year. Unsurprisingly those claims are paid for by your insurer, and to cover the cost of these claims your insurer is, almost inevitably, going to increase your premium. Unless, you happen to have footage from your in-car camera which shows that you’re not liable for the incident (in which case the fraudster gets their claim rejected and, potentially, gets a knock on his/her door from one of the boys in blue!)

It’s hard to argue against using in-car cameras when you think about the potential benefits. However, as with all technology, it’s always worth sparing a moment to consider the legal issues that could arise. As is often said in court, “ignorance of the law is not a defence!”

1) What should you do if your in-car camera captures footage of another road-user doing something illegal?

We’ll assume that you mean a relatively minor road traffic offence (such as using a mobile phone while driving or not wearing a seatbelt). In this case, you should be aware that you are of course under no legal obligation to report the offence to the police. However, if nobody reported crime we’d be living in anarchy. Our advice here is that it is simply up to the driver as to whether they wish to pass the footage on to the police. Be aware though that if the footage is unclear and the full number-plate isn’t captured, then the police may struggle to trace the driver and/or obtain a conviction. Ultimately, it is a decision for each individual driver whether they wish to report the incident to the police or not.

2) What should you do if your in-car camera captures footage of a road traffic collision? (not involving your car)

As with the previous question, there is of course no strict legal obligation to inform the parties concerned that you have video footage of the incident. Furthermore, even if a party involved in the incident were able to track you down and request a copy, you’d be under no legal obligation to provide them with a copy as in-car cameras which are only for ‘personal use’ are not likely to be subject to the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 (which legally obliges most businesses to provide a person with a copy of any CCTV footage in which they feature, if requested; though this is subject to payment of a £10 fee and waiting 40 days!)

However, if your in-car camera is in fact an in-van camera, and the van is used solely for business purposes, then you may find yourself in a different position. It would appear that a case such as this has not been heard in Court before, and therefore it’s almost impossible to say what the outcome would be. To be on the safe side then, if you’re driving on business and your in-car / in-van camera happens to film a collision, it’s probably best to stop and offer your details.

If the collision involves your car and the camera/ footage isn’t damaged then it is absolutely worth keeping the footage and making a few copies to be safe. If the footage shows that you were ‘in the right’ then you should be sure to mention this to your insurer and offer them a copy. If the footage shows you as potentially ‘in the wrong’ you should keep a copy (if the matter went to Court and you deliberately deleted evidence of the incident then this could land you in hot water!). However, before disclosing that your in-car camera captured footage of the incident, we would recommend that you seek proper legal advice.

3) What are the implications of uploading footage to youtube?

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 sets out the legal owner of a film as being the producer and principal director. However, as with filming on an iPhone, in-car cameras aren’t likely to have an entire Hollywood production team on board, so the footage will realistically be owned by the vehicle owner and/or the driver. As a result, the owner of the footage is able to upload the clip on to YouTube if they wish, provided that the content is not obscene (though the threshold for this is incredibly high so 99.99% of footage is unlikely to meet the requirement). You should however exercise caution in posting clips, particularly if the clip shows images of children who could be identified from the clip. Don’t forget as well that YouTube has its own Terms & Conditions and so, even if a clip complies with the law, YouTube can still remove the clip if they deem it in breach of their conditions of use.

4) What to do if someone uploads a video showing footage of you driving while doing something illegal?

Let’s be realistic for a moment here. At times, many of us will have checked our phones while driving, forgotten to put a seat-belt on for a short trip or broken the speed limit. Chances are, at one point or another, most of us have done something illegal while driving, whether by pure accident or not. Being caught on camera doing something illegal is frankly just bad luck; yet it does happen. Even worse, if somebody uploads the footage there’s really not much you can do about (other than pray that the video doesn’t go viral).

If you’re an adult and you’re caught on camera, in public, doing something illegal, then provided it’s not something obscene, there’s little you can do legally to prevent it reaching the internet. That said, you can always ask YouTube or the website it appears on to remove the clip; but in the absence of a restraining order (or similar) they’re not likely to be under any legal obligation to take the clip down. The best solution then is simply to avoid doing anything illegal while at the wheel!

5) Is it a good idea to record every trip with both the front and back cameras?

The short answer is yes. After all, it can’t do you any harm. Though of course be careful not to delete any footage of any incident without seeking proper legal advice first. And our final piece of advice…buy an enormous memory card (you’re going to need it!)

Posted by Matt Schrader

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Matt Schrader

Matt has extensive experience in advising on commercial contracts, intellectual property, licensing & assignments and media & entertainment – in particular, he has a deep understanding of the music and film industries.

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