Photographs including modern buildings and other creative works may fall foul of new European Parliament copyright proposals. New constraints on ‘freedom of panoroma’ may stop PR businesses using photos and videos taken in public places for professional purposes, including reuse on social media.
Do you take photographs on your foreign holidays? Perhaps share some of them on Facebook, Instagram or Flickr? Or maybe even put some in the public domain for reuse on places like Wikipedia? Depending on where you took those photographs and what they show, it seems that this innocent activity may already be breaking copyright law, particularly if your photos (or videos) show modern buildings or sculptures.
And it could get a whole lot worse, impacting PR professionals using photos and videos taken in public places for professional purposes, including sharing them on social media.
Freedom of Panorama
“Every day, millions of Europeans are breaking copyright law. Due to an obscure rule known as Freedom of Panorama, those innocent snapshots of modern buildings you’ve taken in countries such as France and Belgium are breaches of copyright. While the UK has this freedom, we are at risk of losing it in the ongoing copyright reform negotiations taking place in the European Parliament.”
Copyright reformers led by Julia Reda MEP would like to introduce UK-style freedom of panorama (FOP) across the EU (evaluation report explained here; para 16 addresses FOP), but other MEPs are proposing a non-commercial clause in the FOP rules which would make it useless. They suggested: “use of reproductions of works in public spaces should require express permission by the rightsholders.” Posting your holiday snaps on Facebook, Flickr or Instagram, or taking PR shots or video against the backdrop of well-known public buildings could become illegal.
In the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and several other countries (see image, right **), the right of FOP is protected, so photos taken in public spaces are fine. However, in countries including France, Italy and Greece, any unapproved photograph of a modern public building is an automatic infringement of the architect’s copyright in the building’s design (I expect the same could be said of an engineer’s copyright in designs of bridges and other structures). Taking and uploading your own photos of those works is unlawful unless approved in writing by the copyright holder.
Benton also echoes Reda’s point that even photos of older buildings may still be banned:
“For example, you can share a photo of the Eiffel Tower because of its age – but only if it is taken during the day. If the photo is at night, the lighting is considered a separate installation and falls foul of Freedom of Panorama.”
Wikipedia cannot even use such images for free educational purposes, as Wikimedia UK chair Michael Maggs says:
“The problem we have today is that many Wikipedia articles about buildings and monuments cannot be appropriately illustrated when the structure is located in a country without Freedom of Panorama. … It’s important that the European Parliament takes care of freedom of panorama. We support the very long-standing right of UK citizens and visitors to these shores to take photographs of buildings in public places and to do what they want with their own photos without having to seek permission from any third party commercial rights holder.”
It is not just posting of images to Wikipedia and social media sites that is giving rise to concern. Taking photographs in public spaces that include modern buildings, structures and/or sculptures will also fall foul, creating a potential new bureaucratic nightmare where – to comply with the law – PR, marketing and advertising professionals (among others) will have to seek out and gain permissions from architects, engineers, other designers and artists if photos or videos include views of their work.
And – having worked with various UK construction professional services businesses – I can’t see architects, engineers and other design firms being keen to, or even capable of, administering a potential flood of incoming copyright license applications.
UK PR bodies protest
On Friday 19 June, the CIPR and PRCA launched a joint attack on European Parliament’s failure to protect the ‘Freedom of Panorama’. The two PR membership criticised the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee’s decision to reject proposals to protect FOP, saying:
“… the failure to protect this Freedom threatens the legality of photo-sharing and social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. Under the proposals as agreed on by the Committee, full permissions, clearances, royalties, and/or use of authorised images would be required for videos, photographs, paintings or drawings with any potential commercial use.
CIPR CEO Alastair McCapra said:
We … call on MEPs from the UK, as well as other affected countries, to ensure that these disastrous proposals are not enacted into law. We also call on the UK government to make very strong representations in the European Council to stop this proposal in its tracks.
UK Construction and FOP
[* I took the ‘grumpy statue’ image in Scheveningen, Netherlands, recently – and it’s freely available on Flickr on a Creative Commons license. / ** “Freedom of Panorama in Europe NC” by Made by King of Hearts based on Quibik’s work – Derivative work of File:Freedom of Panorama in Europe.svg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.]