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News & Insight

Photographic Freedom Under Siege In Europe? | How To Help & Why You Should

By Kishore Sawh on June 21st 2015

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For the majority of the western world, it’s summer break for students, which means sun, fun, and STDs for many. Parents have to find things to do with their kids, and older kids often get their first taste of traveling alone. Well, where do they all go? If you have Facebook or Snapchat or Instagram, it’s easy to tell because they won’t shut up about it.

If it’s the beaches and bikinis they seek, it’s likely Florida or Mexico. The more interesting ones will do Croatia and Amalfi, but for many, summer is the chance to spend touring the rest of Europe for a bit of tangible history and photographic splendor. The only problem they may find this year is that they may not be able to bring those memories back in the form of photographs.

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Just days ago on June 16th, the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament adopted an amendment to a report on copyright reform. It reads as follows:

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 authorization from the authors or any proxy acting for them.

This has direct implications for the ‘freedom of panorama’ laws across the continent as proposes that there be a standard for images of works that are permanently located in public places. For those of us who weren’t educated at Eton, what this basically means is that instead of allowing the public to take and publish or sell their own images of buildings and monuments found in public skylines, it may be required to get full permission, perhaps clearances, or even pay royalties to any proxy acting for the subjects.

Here’s a map showing what countries in Europe stand where on the subject:

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The tradition as it stands today in most places is that the skyline and anything in the public scene belongs to everyone. It’s that way in England and many other European countries. Some others make it okay only for non-commercial use, and others like Italy, just flat out say it’s not okay. I find that hilarious, but also it’s Italy, where you can make laws to your heart’s content, as long as they’re not enforced. Which they aren’t. If this law goes through, the landscape of legality would be much less green.

Wikipedia’s Signpost has even gone so far as to make a few mocking images to mimic the type we may see if this passes:

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It does seem as though when one legal hurdle of photography is leapt, another one arises. It’s like running in a race where the finish line keeps moving, but there is something you can do. You can help to preserve the freedom of panorama by spreading the word, contacting European members of parliament and sharing your disgust. According to The Signpost, the full vote goes through on July 9th, so the time to act is now to persuade the MEPs to go against this adoption.

[REWIND: YOUR CAMERA BAG MAY NO LONGER BE ABLE TO BE CARRY-ON]

So you don’t travel to Europe? It’s still in your best interest to act for your sake, future generations, and hey, what happens in one federal superstate could very well happen in your own.

Sources: The Signpost, TechDirt

About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Samuel Sandoval

    Stupid. I think it is stupid to be not allowed to take a picture in a PUBLIC place. Really? C’mon, you can’t be that serious.

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  2. Hannes Nitzsche

    Hey everyone, I think we should all rejoice and sign this petition against the decision of the european parliament… it’s in all our best interest.
    Sign the petition here:

    https://www.change.org/p/european-parliament-save-the-freedom-of-photography

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    • Dave Haynie

      Signed. I just got back from Amsterdam on Sunday… half of the point of travel was photography!

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  3. Vlademirsky Ares

    It still has to be voted on 6th of July, lets hope doesn’t go thru.. I found the original document on their site..
    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+IM-PRESS+20150615IPR66497+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

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  4. Graham Curran

    I wanted to upload an image of a statue (in Norway) to Wikipedia but it was rejected because Wikipedia insist that their images be free to use for commercial purposes and these stupid laws prevent that.

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  5. Stephen Jennings

    ….Government….

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  6. Jesper Ek

    The first time I heard about it it was the Eiffel tower banning all commercial use of photos. It is just so stupid set this course..

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  7. John Cumisky

    This article does come across somewhat as scaremongering for the sake of sensationalism.
    You start by setting the scene of a summer holiday and folk taking their holiday snaps, and follow by infering that the new directive will prevent this.

    “Considers that the COMMERCIAL use of photographs” (Blocks mine)

    How can such use be considered commercial?
    It can’t.

    Nothing much has changed or will change.
    Having lived in Europe all my life in various countries I have generally found it to be far more easy going than other places when it comes to photography, and doubt the legislation will make on iota of difference to anyone other than commercial photographers, and even then, very little will change.

    Axs regards the above produced map, could you point me to the source of the data used to create it, I’d be interested to read that.

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  8. John Cavan

    It all comes back to many of the member countries really wanting to make money off the images by directly selling their own version . Not a wise way of going about it (and often hard to enforce), but this is what happens when politicians, who often have a poor grasp of technology, come together to make bad laws. Reminds me of the incredibly absurd cookie law… I want to smack the idiot that authored that every time I see a banner informing me that a site, like every other site on the Internet, uses cookies.

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  9. Jason Markos

    This is ludicrous!!! It’s this kind of stuff that gives the EU a bad name. In particular, what’s the motivation? It’s not like it’s fixing something that is broken!

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    • Kishore Sawh

      I couldn’t agree more. As if the EU needed any more bad press. And with so many other pressing things, it is clear priorities need to be adjusted.

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