The current European Commission public consultation is about ancillary copyright as well as the ‘panorama exception’ (nobody seems to understand why these two were combined in a single consultation process). Freedom of panorama refers to the legal right to take and share photos, video, and images of architecture, sculptures and other works which are located in a public place. We think that the freedom of panorama should be mandatory across the EU for both noncommercial and commercial purposes. Since the issue is now on the table, it’s important that any outcome supports the commonsense right to take and share images of objects in public places.
Everyday activities should not be limited
The sharing of photos taken in public places is a commonplace activity that should not be regulated by copyright. The issue of freedom of panorama was also discussed in the Reda report. An amendment was introduced by Jean-Marie Cavada to restrict freedom of panorama to only non-commercial uses, but a huge protest from citizens, photographers, and civil society organisations—including a Change.org petition that received over 500,000 signatures—helped remove the amendment from consideration.
But this didn’t stop the Commission from reopening the issue in its most recent consultation when it asks, “What would be the impact on your activity of introducing an exception at the EU level covering non-commercial uses of works, such as works of architecture or sculpture, made to be located permanently in public places?”. Implementing a distinction between commercial and non-commercial use of images covered under the panorama exception will muddy any legal certainty for citizens engaged in taking and sharing images. What does “commercial use” mean? Is it related only to payments for direct use of a photograph? Would images that appear on a website that also contains online advertising automatically considered to be a commercial use? Would Wikipedia be considered a commercial project because it also asks for individual donations on its site? Could a user publish a photo on a for-profit social media platform? Continue reading