On the European Freedom of Panorama – Your Rights and Your Chance to Influence them

Slightly early this week, but your views are needed before July 9th if you think that including public buildings and public works of art in your photography should be allowed.

 

The summer programme is upon us and the first event in the calendar is the revival of the mini groups. Our thanks to those who organised them, and I look forward to seeing some of the results on the club Flickr page and the Facebook Members group as well as at the Mini Group Evening on September 17th. It’s always good to get out and practice in a sociable group of like minded photographers. None of us see quite the same thing in the same subject and even small changes of angle can have a disproportionate impact. It is all about perception, light and composition – what draws us to the subject, the interplay of light and shadow and how it looks when confined in a viewfinder. That’s about it. Until you press the shutter …..

 

When the shutter is depressed – I mean activated rather than feeling blue, I leave that to the poor souls who stumble across my images – an artefact is created. In essence something fashioned by a human being of some degree of cultural and/or historical relevance coalesces on the film plane. Now I am not vouching for the degree of cultural and or historical relevance of any particular image, that is something projected on it by its beholders which can and will change over time and is more a matter of fashion than iron law of nature. Nonetheless we have mixed our labour with that which is around us to make something new. Who owns it?

 

Because we have fashioned something new by our physical and mental effort we are said to have created an Intellectual Property and it is recognised in law. If it is for and by us it is ours. If it is something that is done in the course of our job it would usually belong to our employers. I suppose that is an advert for self employment, in which case we need to be clear with whoever commissioned the photos, i.e. stumping up the readies, exactly what it is they are buying, usually a license to use the images under certain circumstances. License basically means a permission or freedom to use. The photographer doesn’t usually pass ownership as part of that. It remains theirs. Without getting into commercial contracts – for which you really do need a lawyer – it is essential to work out, exactly, who owns what, where, when, how and why.

 

This does not only apply to photographs, though the Intellectual Property Office (Patent Office to you and I) do a very good guide (UK only) to rights concerning images, intellectual property and the internet. Neither is it uniform across Europe, enter – to varying degrees of booing and hissing, some of it deserved, most of it ill informed – the European Union. One of the founding economic principles that applies to the European Union is to smooth the path of trade between member nations. Those with a memory undiminished by time will recall we joined the European Economic Community (EEC). It does this by straightening bananas (myth), ridiculous health and safety laws (I quite like being healthy and safe, and get very angry about employers hurting people for profit, as do most employers, but maybe you are different) and in the relatively near future (time passes exceeding slow in international corridors of power), copyright. You will, if you have read last week’s blog at the very least, already be aware of this as it has been all over the photographic press especially in relation to something called Freedom of Panorama. This basically is the freedom to take photographs that are of or include public buildings without having to get property releases from the architects and owners of said buildings. Odd, you might think, but the process of creating Intellectual Property applies to buildings as well as to photographs, or even writing blogs.

 

The European Union is made up of 28 different countries with 28 different views of copyright laws. Now Intellectual Property is BIG business. You may remember the spate of law suits occurring over who invented which part of the smart phone and therefore owes whom how many hundreds of millions of pounds for ripping them off. You might also recall that Amazon own the patent/copyright on taking photographs against a white background (at least in the USA). In order to make things clear for (the lawyers of) 500 million people the EU is looking at copyright law standardisation. Part of this is the so called Freedom of Panorama. This is currently under discussion. Theoretically we could be sued for royalties for taking (commercial) pictures of buildings in Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Romania and Slovenia though no one ever has been, but that statement applies to buildings, not to public works of art. Which rather begs the question why should the Freedom of Panorama be so restricted? This has exercised 300,000 + European Citizens so far who have signed a petition against the idea it should become standardised across the EU. The first vote is on 9th July.

 

You can write to your MEP’s via this link (the most effective thing to do) It will send a confirmation link to your email BEFORE sending it to your MEP’s:

https://www.mysociety.org/projects/writetothem/ (applies to the UK other countries have other ways)

Tell them it is about Freedom of Panorama and copy the suggestion at the bottom of this link

 

https://medium.com/vantage/street-photography-in-europe-an-update-on-freedom-of-panorama-9ed81d60bd5a