Is it legal to take pictures… of industrial installations?
IN A NUTSHELL: It isn’t illegal, but you can expect to draw the attention of the police.
IN DETAIL: The law does not prevent you from taking photographs of an industrial installation from a public road.
However, the owner’s security guards are almost certain to inform the police and you can expect to be questioned and you and your vehicle may be searched. This is not because the owner doesn’t want you to take pictures of their oil refinery, for instance, but because an oil refinery is regarded as a considerable security risk.
If you’re approached by the police when taking photographs in a situation such as this, it pays to be polite and cooperative. Security guards have no jurisdiction outside the boundaries of their employer’s property, though, as stated above, they can (and will) call the police.
If you’re keen to take more photographs of an industrial installation (and they do make great subjects for photography), you might save yourself considerable trouble by contacting the owner directly to see if you can make arrangements to inform their security staff when you’re taking photographs there. It might be worthwhile taking the time to speak to the local police as well.
Is it legal to take pictures of… a commercial building?
If the picture was taken from a public place (or from private property where the owners had no objection to commercial photography) then, strictly speaking, the law does not prevent you from selling or publishing images of buildings, whether they’re private or commercial.
The building owners do not, in UK law, have image rights in their property. However, obtaining a property release is still advisable if a photograph of any identifiable property is to be used commercially.
In fact, image libraries often won’t accept such images without a release, because some commercial uses might amount to passing-off or be defamatory, or infringe a trademark where a company’s trademark is visible in the shot.
Although any copyright in a building is not infringed by taking or distributing photographs of it, you need to be aware that if there is other artwork on the building, the photograph may infringe copyright in that, unless it’s no more than incidentally included.