EU Copyright Reform Looking At Restricting Outdoor Photography

from the erecting-public-structures;-denying-public-access dept

More potential copyright insanity from the European Union. Some positive moves have been made, but they often seem to be offset by extremely awful ideas. Photographing public structures could soon become copyright infringement. At this point, there’s no unified “freedom of panorama” across European countries. Some recognize this as a right inherent to citizens. Others feel any photographic reproductions of structures in public spaces are a violation of the creators’ rights. (via Boing Boing)

A more logical approach to unification was proposed first in a copyright reform report written by Pirate Party representative Julia Reda.

The [copyright reform] report had originally suggested that the current disparity in laws on freedom of panorama across Europe (see map) be harmonised by proposing a unified standard allowing images of works that are permanently located in public places.

Perhaps feeling that anyone who self-identifies as a “pirate” is likely untrustworthy, the EU Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee has rewritten this proposal, going in the opposite direction.

16. Considers that the commercial use of photographs, video footage or other images of works which are permanently located in physical public places should always be subject to prior authorisation from the authors or any proxy acting for them

Instead of defaulting for the more logical assessment that only very limited protections can be extended to buildings and other structures fully visible to the public and erected in publicly-accessible areas, the Committee has extended “permission culture” to include objects not normally considered to be inaccessible to the public by camera/drawing/etc. because they’re accessible to the public in all other respects.

Rather than allowing people to take and publish their own photographs of buildings and monuments in public places—as celebrated in the annual Wiki Loves Monuments campaign, as well as many many books with author-supplied photographs—full permissions, clearances, royalties, and/or use of authorised images would be required for videos, photographs, paintings or drawings with any potential commercial use. (Wikipedia does not accept images unless they can be re-used for any purpose.)

This would end a long-standing tradition in many countries that the skyline and the public scene should belong to everybody; in the UK and Ireland, for example, this goes all the way back to the Copyright Act 1911, [which first set down copyright exceptions in statute law, and is currently reflected in section 62 of the UK Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, and section 93 of the Irish Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000.

The status of existing books published without such clearances would become unclear; most Wikipedia images depicting public art would be lost; and it would become very much more difficult and more expensive to publish future books comprehensively illustrating architecture and public art (or even artists’ sketchbooks depicting them).

You can already see the effects of the legal disparity in regards to the “right of panorama” in effect at Wikipedia. Its page for the Atomium, a structure created by André Waterkeyn for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, contains a censored image, thanks to Belgium’s copyright laws.

Waterkeyn’s family, aided by royalty collection agency SABAM, has pursued “unauthorized” photographs of the outdoor structure. Despite its actions, there are plenty of images of the Atomium floating around the internet. But you won’t find one on its Wikipedia page. The next commercial use of depictions of this outdoor structure won’t be happening until 2076, if EU’s copyright laws aren’t unified into something less completely ridiculous.

It’s not just limited to Europe, although that’s where the next battle is taking place. This same sort of copyright overreach can be witnessed in photos submitted to Wikimedia Commons which have been edited due to complaints from entities residing in countries without “freedom of panorama” protections. More requests for deletion/editing are cataloged here.

It will be about three months before the EU begins debating the proposed copyright reforms. Those living in the countries possibly affected by a “unified” ruling in favor of this clause are encouraged to contact their representatives.

If you’re an EU citizen, for maximum impact please contact each of your local MEPs and ask them to communicate your concern to the MEP responsible for co-ordinating their group position on the matter—in the UK, for example, this would be Sajjad Karim (on-side?) for the Conservatives, or Mary Honeyball (wobbly?) for Labour—and ask them to ask the coordinating MEP to confirm that the group will be seeking to remove this clause as it currently stands from the report, and defend the full right to make use of photographs taken in public places, in this case the existing UK law. In this way you’ll get the chance to learn what the group’s detailed current position is (which you may then find you need to work to persuade your own MEP away from). The coordinating MEP will also thus be made aware of the full range of concerns being expressed to the group, and may be more likely to answer a request forwarded by a fellow MEP than a direct approach.

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Comments on “EU Copyright Reform Looking At Restricting Outdoor Photography”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'If a tree falls in an empty forest...'

Or in this case, ‘If a structure is never shown, referenced, or talked about, does it exist to anyone not in it’s area?’

If greed and control driven idiots want to demand a toll and ‘permission’ for photographs of public structures, then I say pull any pictures, remove any references, and utterly remove them from the public’s eye. See how well that tollbooth works for them when no-one is willing to play their little game.

AJ says:

Re: 'If a tree falls in an empty forest...'

Or more likely; Everyone ignores the law, then they decide to try and enforce it, media gets the story and runs it, people wake up to the absurdity of the current state of Copyright. Then you’ll have the politicians go into their “think of the children” routine, major push to get the law changed, politicians spend the rest of the year patting each other on the back, and were right back where we started.


David says:

Re: Re: 'If a tree falls in an empty forest...'

You are aware that this does not help? Basically any nighttime panorama of Paris already requires special permission for publication since the Eiffel tower’s lighting has been copyrighted.


The Internet is still awash with nighttime photographs of Paris. A veritable gold mine. I would guess that most people hit with cease-and-desist and demand letters will be totally flummoxed.

Rev. Billy Ray Collins says:

Re: Noone owns the outdoors

The outdoors belongs to it’s creator. In this case, God. So, as God’s representatives we would like to ask anyone taking any pictures of God’s creations to please send payments/donations to The Sword Of Joshua Independent Full Gospel Pentecostal Church (just off State Road 23, on the frontage road).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

But they do want it photographed. They want their buildings and structures to be photographed frequently and become popular landmarks. They just also want everyone to pay them for the privilege of making them famous. The entitlement and narcissism of these architects is astounding.

Personally, I feel that that any structure constructed with public tax money or built on public land should be in the public domain, regardless of who designed it. And any architect that sues someone for photographing their publicly viewable structure should have that structure torn down and rebuilt on private property in an enclosed space. Let them charge people an entrance fee to come look at their precious creations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Quite frankly, if they don’t want it photographed, don’t put it in view of the public.”

A common missunderstanding and you shall be forgiven for your interpretation but while the piece of intellectual property might be available to the public it is not(!) and I mean ( in a more or less sarcastic way ) NOT!!! avilable to the public domain. Just because it happened to be viewable from a public place doesn’t mean that the art, the piece of material made reality by god-like, once in a millinal formed expression of intellectual genius is to be photographer and/or filmed and/or preserved for future generations without PROPER compensation to the descendants’ descendants.

My grandpa didn’t build this monument for fun but he wanted me and my siblings, his grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand children to be able to live off his genius.

Self-identified NON-pirate says:

Anyone who self-identifies as a "pirate" IS untrustworthy.

Wonder why the minion even put that in? Not good at seeing implications, I guess.

Here’s Peter Sunde regretting exactly that choice of moniker besides LACK of any recognizable philosophy:

And certainly some here, after so many losses and setbacks, grasp that it’s actually a pejorative and no longer want to be called “PIRATES”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Anyone who self-identifies as a "pirate" IS untrustworthy.

No one who takes outdoor photography is going to self-identify as a pirate. Yet, that’s what you would rather happen in your misguided copyright fanaticism.

There’s someone untrustworthy here, and it’s not the “pirate” bogeymen you keep fantasizing over.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is what happens when lawmakers are sold

This is what happens when you are too busy accepting bribes from interest groups so they can dictate the laws, instead of thinking about these laws from a common sense point of view.

Laws should reflect the way the majority of the people agree that members of society should behave, not how some small privileged group can impose some restrictions on the rest of us.

The Bad Anon says:

Re: This is what happens when lawmakers are sold

All I can say about lawmakers can be summed up by this quote:

“A dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly. It’s the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they’re going to do something incredibly… stupid.”

any moose cow word says:

Just from a practical standpoint, how will this be enforced? Will the EU countries join the copyright troll game with DMCA style bots combing social media for pics that might be taken (or mistaken) for their historical landmarks and sending out millions of shakedown letters? Or they could just have copyright cops standing on every street corner doing the shakedowns directly.

Rather than making a public spectacle of the whole ordeal, they could have a “you must be a dirty pirate” copyright tax on every passport that enters and exits the country. Of course, that doesn’t catch their own seedy citizens who might dare photograph their own historical heritage. The EU could expand the “you must be a dirty pirate” copyright tax to cameras as well, but digital cameras can take a lot of photos. The only way to be absolutely sure they get every single pic is to mandate that all digital cameras have single-use memory cards with an official EU YMBADP tax stamp (to prevent their piratey populous from simply importing cards from China). The YMBADP card mandate would have to be extended to cell phones too. Foreigners would also have any non-YMBADP card electronics confiscated when they pay the YMBADP passport fee. And any travelers complaining about paying the fee again when buying YMBADP cards would be immediately detained and deported for inciting infringement and promoting piracy.

On a positive note, the new policy regarding photography of public landmarks could cover politicians’ dick pics.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’m going to hazard a guess that the French government allowed this so they could make a case to not allow the Las Vegas Eiffel Tower to look exactly like the one in Paris… you know, trademark and tourism confusion and all.

Of course no one would be able to tell the difference between the two in size, location, weather, tourists, show girls, drunks, smell… its definitely the lighting that sets them apart…

Anonymous Coward says:

If they do this, it’s going to be a precursor to doing the same for indoor (hence nearly all) photography.

Indoors you have the same “concerns” (the need for “full permissions, clearances, royalties, and/or use of authorised images would be required for videos, photographs, paintings or drawings with any potential commercial use”).

Indoors you might have your coffee table, the collar on your cat or dog, the milk carton in the background, the carpet, lamps and fixtures, office coffee machines or copying machines – nearly anything/everything could/would be some company’s “copyright image” that they, not you the casual photographer, should control.

Welcome to the new “free world”..

Anonymous Coward says:

i wonder what has actually got to happen before this planet wises up to what is going on here? the entertainment industries, ably assisted by the patent and copyright industries are doing whatever is necessary, in their eyes, to be able to be paid for everything and anything! it matters not that there isn’t any copyright or patent, it matters not that things are years, decades or even centuries old, it matters not whether the various deeds have been done for any or all of the times and under whatever situation. those people want to be able to sit back on their wankers, doing fuck all for life while still having the world pay them! there is no intention of trying to create anything new, they want to be paid a fortune for life and their offsprings lives as well, while doing nothing! and everyone is running round like headless fucking chickens trying to get to the front of the queue to give what is demanded! how bloody ridiculous a situation is that??

TheResidentSkeptic says:

where does this go?

1) Illegal to Photograph
2) Illegal to Describe it to someone (Hat Tip to NFL)
3) Illegal to remember what it looks like
4) Illegal to look at it without paying.

So, each of us will owe more than the GDP of the world to the Extortion Collection Agencies just for being able to walk around, drive, or go to work.

Then they will bitch that they can’t collect from the blind…

nasch (profile) says:

16. Considers that the commercial use of photographs, video footage or other images of works which are permanently located in physical public places should always be subject to prior authorisation from the authors or any proxy acting for them

IANAL but that sounds more like it’s saying such photos and videos can’t be used commercially without the authorization of the author of the photo or video. A building owner/architect/designer isn’t usually referred to as an “author”, right? But then why mention this at all since copyright already covers that? Hm…

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s the end of the world as we know it. Everything from Movies to Music, to photographs, are not going to be worth money. The world is changing back to its original “roots”, where performers performed because they enjoyed doing it, as opposed to trying to make a living off of it… So your 300,000 dollar beanie baby you paid for is actually only worth the cotton and cloth that its made from.. Sorry Lady Gaga, but it’s the truth.

Anonymous Coward says:

The ultimate goal.

This is not about photographs or a shakedown of those who have taken the pictures. This will only be enforced as much as needed to SEEM enforced.
In a couple of years, it will be suggested that it is to difficult to enforce and that instead there should be a tax on all cameras including those that exist in smart-watches and cellphones.
This is all they want… free money for nothing and it is the ultimate goal of leechers.

Somebody saw something popular and wanted to make money off of that. It is that simple.

Anonymous Coward says:

As your magical picture taking machine is already stealing my soul, you must be prevented from taking the souls of other inanimate objects.

So what if i take a picture of paris from the top of the eifel tower?
There are lots of antique and modern monuments.
If you take a big enough picture to encompass multiple identifiable monuments, do you have to license each and every one of them or else destroy the picture?

I know it says it should only entail commercial uses, but how do you define that? Offering your photobook for sale?
Paying the copy shop to print your book?
Use it as advertisement for your travels or your aesthetic sense?

In a way you can interpret to rules to apply to every street view like endeavour. Google has its street view photo cars and Bing and Apple strive to do the same.
And if your photo cars take pictures of belgian roads around the Atomium, they would be taking unlicensed pictures for a “clearly” commercial use.

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