More than 300,000 people have signed a petition against controversial European copyright plans to restrict photography of public buildings

The news comes days after an open letter signed by Amateur Photographer appeared in the Times newspaper.

As we reported recently, there are growing fears that proposed changes to European copyright law will require photographers to obtain permission from architects – and possibly pay them royalties – before publishing pictures of tourist attractions such as the London Eye and The Shard, even just on Facebook.

Similar restrictions on commercial images are already in force in some European countries but, so far, not in the UK.

The change.org petition against the plans was started by German photographer Nico Trinkhaus who called on MEPs to bring Freedom of Panorama to all European countries and ‘not limit the Freedom of Panorama in any way’.

In a separate post on Facebook Trinkhaus explained that he started the petition to raise awareness of an issue first highlighted by Germany’s Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda.

‘This would have a huge effect on many kinds of photographers, on myself and maybe even on everyone who just shares a photo on Facebook,’ claimed Trinkhaus.

He added, ‘So far I have not heard about any architect who complained about the petition. I think they understand the difference. An architect gets paid as the building is built. A photographer most of the time shoots first and gets paid later.’

MEP at centre of copyright storm speaks out
Meanwhile, the French MEP who first tabled the controversial proposal, Jean-Marie Cavada, has responded to the furore surrounding the issue.

In an email to Amateur Photographer (AP), Cavada’s office appeared to play down the potential impact of a change in the law.

Raphaël Dorgans, Cavada’s parliamentary assistant claimed that no-one in Europe has thus far been sued for commercial use of images not covered by Freedom of Panorama – which protects photographers in certain EU countries.

Dorgans told AP: ‘Contrary to what Ms Reda says, Mr Cavada’s amendment would not have far-reaching consequences for internet users who upload their photos on line.’

He added: ‘At the present time, in the EU Member States which don’t have any exception for Freedom of Panorama – and which indeed currently require their citizens to get an authorisation before making a commercial use of a picture of a work located in the public space (i.e. Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Slovenia) – not a single European citizen has been sued after having posted such pictures online, just as in the EU Member States which implemented an exception for Freedom of Panorama (i.e. Germany, Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, the Czech Republic, the UK and Slovakia).’

Copyright symbol by Antony Green
At the same time, Cavada’s office attacked Facebook, suggesting that the social-networking site exploits users regarding photos they post.

‘Facebook take advantage of their terms of service to put their users at odds with the legislation,’ said Dorgans.

‘And consequently, the legal liability of dealing with the potential copyrights of the pictures they upload weigh on the users’ shoulders. We consider that this situation is outrageous.’

Cavada’s representative suggested his office would support a law where Facebook itself, rather than its users, would be responsible for asking the right’s holders for authorisation to use images commercially, and possibly pay them royalties.

Dorgans added: ‘Mr Cavada never had the intention to make the users pay or to restrict their freedom on the internet.

‘He only struggles for a fair remuneration for artists and to stop the copyright abuses used by internet service providers such as Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, etc.’

In April, the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy called for a review of the liability of service providers with regard to copyright.

Dorgans said: ‘So, should they use these pictures for commercial use, they would have to ask for the authorisation of the right holders, and they may have to give them a financial compensation.

‘Such a situation would be more balanced than it is now…’

Facebook had yet to respond to a request for comment at the time of writing.

To sign the change.org petition CLICK HERE

  • Peter Kelly

    Out of curiosity, how would this affect Google Street Maps?
    Would this mean that they would have to pay royalties for every angle of every location, or edit all the pictures?

    This is one hell of a can of worms they’ll be opening, as if life for a photographer is not hard enough these days, trying to persuade people you’re not invading their privacy, or being some pervert, or preparing terrorist attacks, all the while losing the battle of protecting your own images and never getting just reward for the value of the work you do…

  • BristolBachelor

    That may be the case in the UK, but in some countries, the law works the other way around – you may do what is permitted in law.

  • Ivan

    Mr Cavada is lying again. Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain have full Freedom of Panorama, meaning that images are freely re-usable for any purpose.

    If his goal is to go after social media platforms (which I BTW don’t agree is something desirable) he didn’t propose this in his amendment that passed. He proposed that any commercial use should always require prior permission. That, as of today, includes textbooks, social media, blogs, public broadcasting and Wikipedia (that because of its large scope can be considered commercial).

  • tzioneretz

    Europe is, as usually, going about this the entirely wrong way.

    Why do you constantly demand to be given an explicit “freedom” to do X or “freedom” to do Y? You *ARE* free to do *WHATEVER* you want unless it is expressly prohibited. And if someone seeks to prohibit something you disagree with, then the proper course of action is to tell them to shove it rather than demand that the act under threat of being banned be enshrined in some statement of “freedom.”

    Otherwise, before long, you will reach the stage where things that are not expressly allowed are verboten, and you surely do not want that!