What's Behind The Attack On EU's Outdoor Photography? The Usual Copyright Maximalism And Anti-Americanism

from the civilization-in-peril dept

Last week, Tim Cushing explained that one of the bad outcomes of the recent European Parliament committee vote on Julia Reda’s copyright reform report was that it recommended limiting freedom of panorama — the ability to take pictures and make videos of public objects — to non-commercial use. As Techdirt readers know, in the digital age, it is very hard to draw a clear distinction between commercial and non-commercial contexts online, which makes any kind of limitation to non-commercial use problematic. The person responsible for introducing the amendment to Reda’s report, Jean-Marie Cavada, has written a blog post about the freedom of panorama issue (original in French), and it gives us some interesting insights into his thinking here:

The fight which is being led today by Ms. Reda, in the guise of defending free access to the works that are in the public domain [public objects] on behalf of users, is actually one conducted above all to allow US monopolies such as Facebook, or Wikimedia, to avoid the payment of fees to the creators.

Yes, it’s all about those evil American companies again, refusing to pay when somebody dares to post a holiday picture on their Facebook page. Because, as the copyright maximalists keep on reminding us, every single use of every single owned object must be licensed every single time, otherwise civilization — specifically European civilization — will come crashing down.

But whatever people might think about Facebook, it’s hard to see Wikipedia/Wikimedia as a “US monopoly” avoiding payment, as Cavada calls it. Indeed, Cavada goes on to contradict himself, writing:

this structure is well aware that the use of works on Wikimedia pages is not questioned by the authors, even in countries where there is no [freedom of] panorama exception.

Well, if it’s not questioned, why is he using Wikipedia as an example of an evil “US monopoly” that wants to avoid paying licensing fees? Or does he mean that authors don’t have a problem with Wikipedia using photos of landscapes with their works visible provided they are paid? Which of course ignores the fact that Wikipedia is not a company, and can’t afford to pay licensing fees. Or, there again, is he perhaps advocating that Wikipedia just ignore the law, and use the pictures anyway?

Altogether, this confused post is a perfect demonstration of why people who don’t understand a technology should not be allowed to make laws about it.

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Companies: facebook, wikipedia

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Comments on “What's Behind The Attack On EU's Outdoor Photography? The Usual Copyright Maximalism And Anti-Americanism”

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David says:

Re: Re:

But, but but… I thought architects were paid to design buildings, and artists were paid to produce public sculptures, and murals.

Who is talking about the “artists”? They won’t get to see a dime here. To be paid, they would need to be under contract with some publishing association, and those hand out only exclusive contracts prohibiting the “artists” from making any deals themselves: they just get their share after “expenses and processing” have been skimmed off.

So the copyright mob will usually cash in on such stuff and use it for bonuses for their managers and contracted slaves.

The “artist” does not have a reasonable chance to get any of that unless he bows to their conditions and lets them have a share of everything he produces.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You are missing the point entirely. Architects are paid to create designs, and artists are funded to produce public works of art. There has never been any expectation of royalties on these paid for works.
The EU is trying to create a new right with no clear idea of who will benefit or how ‘royalties’ will be collected. If this goes through they are effectively banning photography because the next thing will be demand for royalties for carpets, curtains, wallpaper, images and product captured in photographs taken on and in private premises.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It is usually illegal to take pictures on museums. This is a stretch from that idea. And I mean a serious stretch.

Looking at sir Cavadas position it seems clear that he is very heavily into some of the non-sense part of the anti-american rhetorics among the lobbyists. These lobbyists seems to be able to subdue a computer-illiterate french “liberal in name only”.

I am amazed that he doesn’t see the logical stretches he is making here. They are terrifying.

Edward Teach says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Don't be an idiot.

It is usually illegal to take pictures on museums.

No. Not in the USA. That’s the exception, rather than the rule. Some places don’t allow flash pictures, because they believe that the intense light causes art to fade, but other than that, you’re wrong, especially in art museums.

I have noticed copyright exceptions in some other museums, but that’s usually the text or video or whatever surrounding the exhibit, not the dinosaur skeletons or whatever.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Don't be an idiot.

“they believe that the intense light causes art to fade”

There are beliefs, and then there is science:

I didn’t read the study but to be fair that’s definitely a better safe than sorry situation as there’s little harm in banning flashes but if they do cause damage it could be irreparable damage to irreplaceable artifacts. I imagine restrictions will continue until it’s clearly demonstrated there is no risk.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is what happens when you bruteforce the idea of an “IP-intensive economy” and export it all over the world.

And for the usual idiots who would like to insist this is another anomaly, the fact that your politicians are regularly escalating their efforts is a sign that “anomalies” like these have already become the norm – a norm of complete, utter IP stupidity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jul 2nd, 2015 @ 5:01am

It’s pretty obvious that a lot of people in Europe get butt hurt over the US for a variety of reasons.

In this case, it’s a complete lack of common sense, being justified by playing into popular anti-US sentiment.

And if you really think it’s not a Freedom issue to ban pictures of large, open public spaces, then you’re taking the bait, hook line and sinker.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh the irony of “blaming anti-americanism” while pointing out that America is the worst offender of “people who don’t understand a technology should not be allowed to make laws about it”.

That makes no sense. What does one have to do with the other? You’re saying we should only mention anti-Americanism if the US doesn’t also do another unrelated thing that the anti-Americanists are doing? Totally illogical.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hmm, what’s the problem with that? One point doesn’t invalidate another. And let’s consider that while IP maximalism has its greatest drivers in the US media the tech companies mentioned are actually calling for a more balanced system. Besides, there’s no EU equivalent to these companies. If Youtube was European would they be hammering it that hard? I’d point that it’s more IP maximalism than anti-americanism and it’s just a “successful companies must pay me because reasons” that happens to have American companies at its focus right now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

…I’d point that it’s more IP maximalism than anti-americanism and it’s just a “successful companies must pay me because reasons” that happens to have American companies at its focus right now…

I want to vote this insightful but NoScript has started blocking all the buttons. It never did that until the last update a few days ago. Guess I’ll have to play with the settings to see what service these buttons are on.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“it’s just a “successful companies must pay me because reasons” that happens to have American companies at its focus right now.”

Your right about the cash grab on the successful companies, but you’re wrong that it’s not anti-American.

EU leaders are tired of US companies winning so many markets. They want more local winners, and impeding the foreign players is a move from the same old playbook that brought us tariffs, quotas, or other trade barriers.

Even if it’s not done out of a negative feeling towards the USA, its certainly the case that EU leaders are unlikely to suffer a political price for “taxing” big US companies. This is like a city’s government raising “occupancy taxes” on hotel rooms — it’s easy to screw the people who can’t vote you out.

David says:

Unintended consequence

Tourbooks are going to go under, since they are going to get killed in ‘license fees’ for all the points of interest they display and suggest people go visit.

Someone needs to publish a ‘tour book’ of all the famous places, and photoshop out the key monuments, and show them what the world they want would look like.

Paris without the Eiffel Tower. Rome without the Colluseum. Piza without the Leaning Tower. There are thousands of others which could be virtually erased from knowledge within a generation, absolutely killing tourism.

BobC says:

Re: Unintended consequence

Who owns a copyright on the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower if Pisa, or the Roman Colosseum, etc.? Even under the draconian US copyright law (where a copyright can exist for over 100 years), all these monuments would no longer be under copyright protection.

On the other hand, if I wanted to sell a particular good photo of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, that might be a bit more clear cut – although I would have to check whether the museum holds the copyright or the architect (Frank Gehry) still does. In the US the copyright on a work-for-hire generally is held by the party that contracted for the work. So if Mr. Gehry was paid for the design, his contract probably assigned the copyright to the museum. I must admit that I am unfamiliar with the copyright law in the EU and Spain, or the specific contract with Mr. Gehry, so there could be other wrinkles.

What puzzles me the most about the proposed scheme is what happens to a cityscape or aerial photo. For instance, such a photo of Paris might include the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumph, the Louvre, etc. Would they all require licences and payment? Whom would I have to contact? What if one of them was partially visible: is that a partial payment or is it exempt if some distinguishing characteristic is not show (e.g. it is unrecognizable). What happens if the photo includes artwork in a park? From a practical point of view, it’s a nightmare.

chrislaarman (profile) says:


“Altogether, this confused post is a perfect demonstration of why people who don’t understand a technology should not be allowed to make laws about it.”

It’s up to the voters to elect lawmakers. It’s up to the lawmakers to familiarize themselves with the topics that happen to be assigned to them in their fraction. Fractions in the European Parliament are based on ideology, not on nationality.

Here is Mr. Cavada:

(Yes, notice the capitals in the URL.)

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: lawmakers

But it’s NOT up to voters. The parties make damn good and sure that our choices are between someone who’ll make things worse, and someone who’ll make things even MORE worse. In places where there are more candidates, then your other choices are someone who’s so bad they make the major candidates look good. Seriously, your choices are between two corporate douchebags and a neo-nazi who promises WW3 if he’s voted in. Just look at the choices and tell me it’s the VOTERS’ fault!

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: lawmakers

Two problems with that: 1 – most modern electronic voting booths don’t have a provision for write ins (in fact, many states don’t allow write ins of any sort no matter how you vote), and 2 – a winner with 2% of the vote will claim a “landslide victory giving him a mandate” because he had (let’s say) 60% of the votes cast for someone on the ballot.

I voted third party the last 20 years just as a form of “none of the above”, and it just doesn’t work. Given that even third parties are becoming rare, I’ve just given up voting altogether. I don’t vote, and encourage others not to as well until such time as real choices are presented. You all vote for crap, don’t come crying to me about being crapped on. I didn’t vote for him.

Isabel Gancedo (profile) says:

Re: lawmakers

Sorry, I’m not a fan of Mr Cavada, but he is not the one responsible for having his name in capitals in the URL. It is just the normal method for constructing the links to the pages of all MEPs on the European Parliament’s site.

Even Pirate Reda has her name all in capitals http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/124816/JULIA_REDA_home.html

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