04 August, 2015

Icons Gone - Photography of Landmarks to be Prevented Through Copyright?

Memories are an important part of life, especially when it comes to travels to far-away lands or places, filled with culture, icons and landmarks that dot human history's timeline. As an avid traveler, this writer has taken his share of photos, both digital and of the physical, film variety, and often looks back at them with fondness and nostalgia. Pictures also form a part of the fabric of visual heritage of different cultures, and their importance cannot be overstated. Nevertheless, as a part of the InfoSoc Directive's implementation report, specifically relating to Article 5 of the Directive, any EU Member State could introduce restrictions to rights conferred in Articles 2 and 3 of the Directive.

To expand on this a bit more, the Freedom of Panorama enables individuals to take pictures of sculptures or other permanent installations and publish them without a need to consult the original creator or architect to do so. Currently the legal landscape for Freedom Of Panorama is very scattered, with some countries in the EU allowing all uses of such pictures (some with certain limitations, such as non-commercial use), while others, such as France and Italy, allow for no publication of images of this nature. Arguably the ability to publish one's vacation photos should be a 'right' in itself, with potential restrictions on commercial utilization being a viable option (although, one can imagine, costly to enforce effectively).

Frank was a savant in monument photography
In the proposed amended report put forth by Julia Reda (with the initial report discussed on this very blog here) Freedom Of Panorama was curtailed somewhat, as a recommendation set forth 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 authorisation from the authors or any proxy acting for them". Ms Reda's initial report had a very different view, proposing that photographs of such places would always be permitted. This writer would promote striking a balance between the allowance of sharing photographs with their commercial utilization with no licence contribution. Arguably, enforcement and ensuring that all images were actually taken for the commercial purposes would be challenging, and potentially nigh impossible, yet it still remains an important consideration in this context. People should be able to share their vacation photos with no need to seek permission, but should not be able to sell those images as postcards, for example, willy-nilly.

The measure has since been rejected, which is a great development; however, one has to note that the resolution is non-binding, potentially leaving the door open for the restriction of Freedom Of Panorama in the future. This writer doubts any substantial restrictions would ever be introduced, and even if they would be, their enforcement would be their downfall. Online services like Facebook and Picasa would have to restrict the displaying of photos that would infringe on this potential provision, bearing the brunt of the enforcement of any takedown notices from subsequent rights' holders.

This discussion surrounding the Freedom of Panorama highlights the persisting importance of copyright in everyday life, even regarding mundane, more obvious 'rights'. Should a restriction be implemented monuments around the world would probably have stewards requesting payment after a photograph is taken, affecting the magic of amazing sights that people have wanted to see on their journeys. Nevertheless, as the measure has been rejected it seems highly unlikely, but this writer will follow any developments with interest.

Source: The Times

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