Freedom of Panorama under threat (in the EU)

I meant to point at this when I read about it last week, but had to go away on family business. Basically there's a proposed change to EU copyright law which would make it necessary to obtain permission to publish photographs of public buildings and works of art taken outside in public places.

You can read more about it here and here.

I have already written to a couple of UK MEP's about this.

Lest you think this might not mean much - take a look at the censored photo of the Atomium in Brussels on Wikipedia. To publish photos of it you have to get permission from the Waterkeyn family (it was designed by Andre Waterkeyn in 1958). There's no Freedom of Panorama in Belgium.


  • More regulatory bullshit!

    Gotta love the EU.

  • edited June 2015
    This needs watching carefully. A 'signature' building is often 'copyright the owner or originator' but for practical purposes photographing it cannot always be controlled.

    The proposal to extend 'museum artifact' status to buildings and places is not too surprising given the pixel storm of the digital age: for example the juxtaposition of 'inappropriate' material in an image maybe something owners/originators may want to control or exploit.

    In the UK restriction on photography of certain buildings in public places is not unusual. In Cambridge the commercial publication of any image of a university building without permission is considered a breach of copyright. This is nothing to do with the EU, this is 'home grown' regulatory action. Because of this (increasingly common) consent issue I do not believe we have a 'freedom of panorama' as such in the UK- the EU seems to be taking a lead from German case law.


  • edited June 2015
    Bill could you say a bit more about the Cambridge University regulation (which is news to me)?

    It's one thing to be told when you enter a building that photography is not permitted - if you ignore a prominent notice you have no excuse if later someone takes action when you publish a photo. But how do you know, when entering the city of Cambridge, that there is such a regulation? Are there prominent signs on all the affected buildings?

    Is one example of how they do it. It's the common 'no commercial use' tag.

    Permission can be granted
    The College will grant permission for photographs to be taken within the College grounds on the following conditions:

    1. That the usual acknowledgement, 'By kind permission of the Provost and Scholars of King's College, Cambridge', is made.

    2. That an undertaking is given not to reproduce the photographs, or permit them
    to be reproduced, for any purpose whatsoever, except that for which permission is granted.

    3. That a copy of any photograph taken is made available to the College for its own use.

    4. That any charge levied by the College for photography is paid on request.

    Of course I had to find out the hard way and have had the lecture from the Beadle...

  • edited June 2015
    "within the College grounds"

    So they claim ownership of all reflected photons collected on their property? But the EU might claim private ownership of all reflected photons if collected at a distance on public property? What if they are reflected a second time, say on the bumper of a car?

    In the US we see no-commercial use rules on some freely-accessed outdoor private property (for instance college campuses: ) and special regulations and fees for especially elaborate set-ups on public property (movie filming, kites, drones ). I've heard of security guards harassing photographers on public sidewalks because of an iconic building being "trademarked," but I don't think a court would ever find for the building owner. More here:
  • I understand that Kings document, which imposes rules within the bounds of the college, but the proposed EU regulation would actually prohibit you selling almost any of your aerial photos of Cambridge that featured Kings without their permission, no matter where the camera was. In fact you might have to get permission from a whole bunch of institutions just to publish one photo (e.g. if it featured the FitzWilliam, Kings, etc all in the one shot).
  • edited July 2015
    Unfortunately most of the City constitutes 'College Grounds' So 'Freedom of Panorama' does not apply here. If I sold a KAP shot without the permission they could (and probably would ) do me for unlicensed use. Consent is required for all professional photography of university buildings taken on College grounds ( you could argue KAP is not on the ground..)

    In theory you should be able to get University permission covering all the colleges but that page is a '404' at the moment.

    I'm not kidding. They charge for the permission, I have heard its around £25 a shot for single use.
  • The only question is commercial use or non- commercial use. It doesn't bother me.

    If I publish the picture of the Atomium in Brussels on my personal website or on this forum, both are no-commercial use and the freedom of panorama applies.

    But that picture cannot be published on Wikipedia only because of their policy, not because of censure:
    The Wikimedia Foundation is deeply rooted in the values of the free culture and free software movements. With the exception of "fair use" material, all information in Wikimedia projects can be freely shared, freely distributed, freely modified and freely used for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, in perpetuity.
    This is all the same on FaceBook, Flick'r, Instagram, etc. who can use commercially any of your photograph for their own profit. IMO this is stealing our work and our art, that is the reason I never submit pictures through these so called social medias.

    I have read (it's in French) the argument of Jean-Marie Cavada and the complaint of Julia Reda on this matter. She states that the restriction on panorama freedom will complicate the work of professional photographs and be counter-productive. JM Cavada insists that commercial freedom is granting more profits for free expenses to existing monopoly, not providing fees to photographers and creators.

    If our common will is to have free sharing and access to knowledge and culture between customers, fight shall be against those who are seizing our rights, not against the restriction of freedom panorama when commercially used

    By the way, European law already grants free panorama to non-commercial use. This is fine enough to me.
  • edited July 2015
    Christian - I understand your arguments, but they only work if you don't yourself want to sell your work. If you took a KAP photo of Mont St Michel (which I think you have) and wanted to sell it, you would, under the proposed regulation, have to establish who owned the rights and negotiate with them.

    Maybe you don't see that as a problem, but I do. I haven't sold many of my photos, but people occasionally ask if they can use them in a magazine or book. I've even made T-shirts using some of them. Under the proposed regulation I could not ask for payment for the use of a photo in a magazine or book, or sell such T-shirts without getting permission.
  • Dave,

    Do you have a 'form of words' on this I can send to my MEP?

    I think the proposal could seriously damage the the livelihood of creative photographers, the trouble is I'm not crystal clear on what to shout about: I understand the rights of those who wish to protect their rights as owners and originators ( lord knows I've been ripped off enough to realize this) what I don't understand is the idea of a blanket ban with a 'default' of no photography without prior consent .

    'Not for profit' is a difficult thing to pin down: I may accept payment for my time and materials in exchange for 'free' use of an image: this could be seen as either 'profit' or 'cost'.

    Aerial photography is part of my livelihood. This matters.


  • To me, the principle is simple. If someone erects a work of art in a public place or erects a building that can be seen from a public place, they should not have the right to prevent people photographing from within that public space, even if the photographer intends to publish the photo or otherwise make money from it.

    Of course, people are at liberty to impose whatever rules they like on buildings or works of art that are NOT in a public place, but it would surely be better if going with the permission to erect the work of art in a public place went the obligation to allow people to photograph it and publish their photos.

    This has nothing to do with the rights people have to make profits from their photos or prevent others ripping them off. It has everything to do with what you are allowed to do in a public space - in other words, what 'a public space' means.
  • One last point. If you are uncertain about what the proposal means please read all of the section "Why Should I Care" on Julia Reda's web page. You'll see that it's very easy to make your personal website fall foul of the proposal.
  • Thanks Dave,

    I think you are getting closer to the core issue: photographers rights in a public place..I need do some research but this might be the best path against what could be construed as 'censorship' of public spaces...

    Is there a timetable on this?
  • I have emailed my MEP. This is the text:
    This proposal redefines the meaning of a public place and the freedom to take photographs therein. The suggestion the 'freedom of panorama' should only exist with the prior consent of owners and copyright holders is restrictive to the freedom to enjoy public places by amateur and professional alike. It constitutes a form of censorship which benefits very few whilst attacking the livelihoods of many creative people who seek to share the cultural capital of Europe's public places.

    On July 9, the plenary of the European parliament is going to vote on Amendment 421, I ask you to please act to remove clause 16.

    I urge European Kappers to do likewise.

  • edited July 2015
    I strongly believe that one should be allowed to take photographs in public places and do with them watever one likes, including selling them. Next thing they will add copyright to landscapes, villages, rocks (Stonhenge)... The link Bill posted about Cambridge states that you are not even allow to sketch, draw or paint the scenery (and sell the painting).

    If I let speak my hart on this, my message to EU legal affairs committee would be "I fart in your general direction!".
    But I guess this would not be effective, the European parliament being too far away, and not even downwind...

    In The Netherlands one is allowed to take (and sell) images of works of art (read buildings, bridges, sculptures...) that are exposed permanently (by design) in a public place. I find this very reasonable.
  • As this is a political issue I will not be shy in adding my own similar comments.
    You ain't see nothing yet !
    If you are concerned about the above I suggest you research TPP and TTIP, the Trans-Pacific trade agreement and the Transatlantic trade and investment partnership.
    The public is blissfully unaware (because it is meant to be secret !) of the outrageous assault wished by corporations on so many aspects of our life, including copyright, intellectual property, transparency (or lack of) and supremacy of corporations over the laws of nations and the wishes of the people.
    It is an extremely serious issue, the above are merely the raindrops before the torrential downpour.
  • An email to RPS members sent today:

    Dear UK and European Member:

    Over the past few days you may have read or been emailed about the threat to ‘freedom or panorama’ which is included in a draft report being promoted by a Member of the European Parliament (MEP).

    In the UK (and in some other countries) we enjoy the right to photograph buildings and sculptures ‘if permanently situated in a public place or in premises open to the public’ for our own enjoyment and even for commercial use. The MEP’s proposal is to adopt the model that operates in France and a number of other European countries which gives other creators e.g. architects and sculptors, protection against having their work being reproduced without payment. In those countries permission is required to photograph or exploit images containing those works. The more sensationalist press reports have suggested that the public’s holiday snaps might be threatened - the reality is that it would mostly affect groups such as travel book, postcard and poster publishers, in particular. Either way, it is a significant concern to The Society.

    The MEP’s proposal is only for commercial use and it is a very long way from becoming law but The Society believes that the proposal should be dismissed before it gains any traction. If harmonisation is required then it should be along the UK model and not the other for which there has been no great demand for other than by a small number of vested interests. In the UK there is no demand to change the current position even from groups such as architects who might benefit.

    The Society would encourage members to sign a petition here to register your objection to the proposal. Almost 300,000 people across Europe have already signed. You may also wish to contact your own MEP to register your views.

    The Society has been working with a number of other organisations over the past couple of weeks on this issue and the next key date is 9 July when there will be a vote in the European Parliament on the report.

  • @ Ningaloo

    "The Society" ??? What Society ???

    Fly High

  • Sue - it's at the top of Kevin's post - the RPS (Royal Photographic Society).
  • Thanks Dave. I missed that.

    Fly High

  • "European Parliament removes troubling wording from copyright reform proposal"

    That's excellent news and a great relief to most photographers especially professional ones.

    You can 'Fly High' again Bill Blake

  • edited July 2015
    So no new copyright issues with photographs taken in public places! I won't have to leave the EU after all... :-) The proposed EU law was rejected by 502 votes against 40.

    An 'inverse' proposal that photography of buildings and art should be allowed EU wide was also rejected: 327 against 228. :-( So we still have to be careful in Belgium, France and Italy, Greece...

  • edited July 2015
    Nothing has changed except that a proposal should be done end of 2015 with the guidelines approved by the European parliament and named "Harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society".
    Here is this document: P8_TA-PROV(2015)0273

    Skip the first 4 pages and see the items 1 to 24, followed by Exclusive rights items 25 to 32 and by Exceptions and limitations items 33 to 67.

    Item 1 is : (The European Parliament ...) Points out that copyright is the tangible means of ensuring that creators are remunerated
    and that the creative process is funded.

    Then, items have different importance depending on the way they are declared: Acknowledges .../ Calls on .... / Considers ... / Deems ... / Draws attention .... / Emphasises .... / Highlights .... / Invites ... / Maintains ... / Notes ... / Points out ... / Recognizes ... / Remarks ... / Stresses that ... / Suggests .... / Supports ... / Takes note ... / Underlines ... / Welcomes ...

    The copyright topic is very complex. The text is showing the target to have a more appropriate and fair distribution of copyright fees between creators and intermediates whilst ensuring broadcast and access to customers of cultural works.

    It seems to me that the total Freedom of Panorama and the restriction to Freedom of Panorama still have to be evaluated. None the FoP nor no FoP are fair enough to creators whilst actually most of the generated income goes to intermediates. More awful, some of them are confiscating that money.
  • edited July 2015

    My MEP has just sent me this:
    Dear Bill,

    Thank you for contacting me regarding the issue of Freedom of Panorama.

    Labour MEPs voted last week to ensure images taken in public spaces remain free to use as part of an evaluation of copyright in the EU. A lot of focus in the media and in public campaigns has been on an amendment added to the report by the Liberal group which threatened freedom of panorama - Labour MEPs voted against this amendment, and it was strongly rejected by 504 votes to 44.

    Thank you for taking the time to contact me on this important matter.

    Yours sincerely

    Richard Howitt MEP
    ...does the rejection of the amendment stand?
  • I strongly advise you all to read Julia Reda's piece mentioned by Hans above - it clarifies how the proposal came about. And take a look at the maps in the Wikipedia article he cited - turns out the US does not have full freedom of panorama ('better' than France, but 'worse' than the UK).

    I put 'better' and 'worse' in quotes because it's my opinion (not shared by Christian, I suspect).

  • edited July 2015
    Is the main concern royalty free commercial use, or being able to take the picture in the first place?

    It's true that US copyright law since 1978 allows artists producing public art to retain some control over commercial use of photographs their art. This is solely about commercial use and the concept of people profiting off the artists work through "reproduction." There is a subjective exception: "transformative fair-use." Unless the artist provides a cherry-picker for viewing I'd argue KAP would generally fall under the transformative definition. I don't think incidental inclusion of public artwork in wide-angle urban/landscape photography would be considered the type of violation where you are clearly aiming to profit off of the artists work. However, you are not affirmatively protected from suit. You could potentially be forced to fight it out over subjective criteria. The successful lawsuits I've seen seem to revolve around pictures that are solely focused on the public artwork and show-case them in a fairly conventional way.

    In contrast pictures of buildings and other architectural structures from public places are affirmatively protected from copyright lawsuits.

    **Recognizable people are another major concern of photographers in public spaces. Right to privacy, right of publicity, defamation, etc. But the right to privacy does not automatically extend to pictures of private property. The Barbara Streissand lawsuit provides a pretty good precedent for aerial photographs from public space of private property in general. She lost fairly decisively over helicopter pictures that look a lot like KAP. However, a property release is valuable for selling photos, as buyers may be worried about dealing with a suit even if the chances of a successful suit are incredibly low.

    **Security is another concern around infrastructure and some public property.
  • edited July 2015
    This is the relevant question on what is freedom of panorama
    Is the main concern royalty free commercial use, or being able to take the picture in the first place?
    Truly there was confusion and misinformation on most of topics and papers on freedom of panorama (FoP) before the European parliament session on July 9th and it's going on. Even the definition of FoP looks loose.
    Here is the draft report PR\1046248EN.doc on the proposal about the "harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society". I wondered why this text was not accessible with direct link from so many web pages on FoP. In fact, obviously, very few people knew that text as nobody mentionned its reference. When I read it I personnally found difficult to understand the relation between the promotion of FoP and this text and as worded I couldn't get a clear view of the extent of consequences of this proposal. None of the comments on FoP which I read were helpful. They made it even more confusing.

    It seems also that few people had the knowledge that such text is the proposal which European parliament must approve as the guidelines for a committee to work and prepare a law project . Then once written the project must be approved before it will be applicable.

    So, now on, the guidelines for the committee where Julia Reda acts as rapporteur, or spokesman, are those of the text approved by the parliament on July 9th which I gave the link to in my former post.

    You can compare the proposal text and this actual text. Then you can try to guess what would be the final European resolution. But before, it comes back to Tgran's question to which a suitable and clear answer is mandatory.

    With reference to Wikipedia, their assessment about France on the page linked by Dave is not correct. Yes we have total permission to make an image of any item located on a public place (not private). Then you can published it as far as it is not detrimental to the artist or to the owner of the work and when it has no commercial issues. When it is in published reports, papers, etc, there are exceptions, such as if the creation is not the main subject of the image, if it is an accessory or an example in the discourse or being part of an information. caricature, etc... As you know, in France we like rules with many exemptions. In this case, exemptions means royalties free. I will never assessed it is better or worse than another system, but as any system it's a kind of compromise and it can be improved.
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