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Hobbit photo ban sign above studios draws negative response

Jul 17th, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News

ONE of the signs on Miramar’s Wexford Hill that restrict photographs of Peter Jackson’s Stone St studios has been caked in mud.

The six signs are on Wellington International Airport’s land and overlook one of the production bases of The Hobbit movie.

They also state that those who take photographs from the land risk being charged with trespass, NewsWire revealed last week.

A guard from Recon Security was on the site on Sunday afternoon.

A spokeperson from Recon Security told NewsWire the guard was in the area for a completely different client, Hobbit production company not 3foot7.

The spokesperson would not say who that client was: “I don’t have permission to talk about that.”

 EARLIER STORY (July 14)

PEOPLE taking pictures of Hobbits from a hilltop park above Peter Jackson’s studios risk having the images deleted and being charged with trespass.

This is the potential outcome for anyone using cameras on Wexford Hill, a Wellington Airport-owned property that overlooks the Stone St studios where The Hobbit is being made.

The land in question, which has panoramic views of the eastern suburbs, looks like a park – it is mowed, unfenced and has seats on the summit.

An old Ministry of Transport sign says the area is for pedestrians only and warns people to stay away from the cliff edges.

Six large notices have now been erected telling members of the public that while they are welcome to enter the land for “usual recreation purposes”, they are not allowed to take photos of any property or people at the Stout St studios below.

The notices are signed by Recon security company, which works for The Hobbit production company 3foot7.

When approached for comment by NewsWire, The Hobbit publicist Melissa Booth said everyone at the studios is on a two-month break, including the producers. She recommended we contact the security company.

A Recon spokesman said the company works directly for 3foot7, which has an agreement with Wellington International Airport.

He said if Recon’s security officers find someone taking pictures the person will be asked to delete the images and, in the worst case, the officer will issue a trespass notice.

Wellington International Airport chief commercial officer Matt Clarke says the [security] company has a right to restrict people taking photos because “the land is privately owned and use is able to be restricted”.

The airport has issued a licence agreement to 3Foot7 to protect the production company’s copyrighted property from being infringed by people taking photographs or digital recordings from the site.

Mr Clarke says the licence is a practical arrangement “not a commercial one”, although 3Foot7 meets the cost of preparing and issuing the licence.

Canterbury University associate professor of law Ursula Cheer says without seeing the licence, it is difficult to say what its legal status is: “I have no idea what is meant by the agreement being a practical and not a commercial one.

“The production company through its agent, the security firm, is like the owner and can put up signs stating the conditions of coming onto the property. This means the notice looks quite effective.”

The public who go on to this land and breach the terms on the signs may become trespassers and can be asked to leave and to surrender film, she says.

“If they do not do so, they might be sued in trespass and if they publish photos, then the claims based on intellectual property rights might follow.

“It does look as if the company is trying to avoid legal action, however, by confiscating and destroying the films, etc.”

When Tom Cruise was filming The Last Samurai in New Plymouth in 2003, similar issues arose when the film company tried to stop local newspaper the Taranaki Daily News taking photos of scenes being shot on the city’s central park, Pukekura Park.

At the time, media law commentator Steven Price said there was no law to prevent photographs being taken from a neighbouring private property if you have the owner’s permission.

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