Controversy is brewing over proposed changes to European copyright law that, it is claimed, will require photographers to obtain permission before publishing pictures of tourist attractions such as the London Eye


French MEP Jean-Marie Cavada proposed that all European nations adopt laws that may require permission from a building’s architect before an image is published commercially, similar to strict photography rules currently in force in France, for example.

According to German MEP Julia Reda this would mean countries currently protected by the so-called Freedom of Panorama, including the UK, would be subject to restrictions that would demand photographers seek a licence from the ‘architect or rightholder of the public artwork’.

Reda went further by arguing that the rule change could have a far wider impact, by affecting people sharing images of iconic buildings on Facebook and those posted on Wikipedia.

‘If the proposal by the European Parliament were adopted into law, all pictures of public buildings and permanent artworks depicting a work whose author has not been dead for 70 years would have to be deleted from Wikipedia,’ she claimed.

Giving his initial response, Michael Pritchard, director general of the Royal Photographic Society, told Amateur Photographer: ‘It’s a concern and one that should be addressed before it becomes law.’


The Signpost, a community-run newspaper about Wikipedia (see above), warns the move will affect photography of buildings in the UK

Reda had sought a Europe-wide adoption of Freedom of Panorama.

But, instead, the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee adopted ‘the most restrictive amendment on the question of Freedom of Panorama’, as follows: ‘[The legal affairs committee] considers 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.’

Francis Ingham, director general of the Public Relations Consultants Association, said: ‘This decision from the European Parliament is a draconian attack on the UK’s right to take photographs in public places. This is akin to the recent attack on our right to browse the internet without fear of impinging on copyright law…

‘Not only is this threat to “Freedom of Panorama” an attack on everyone’s rights, it is an attack on the PR industry’s work, which often depends on the ability to openly take and share photos and video footage in iconic public spaces.’

Reda urged people to lobby their MEP before the European Parliament votes on the proposals on 9 July. She said: ‘Call your representatives [MEPs], send them a post card, contact them on social media and explain to them why it is important to you that the public space remains free to everyone and that it should not be burdened by licence agreements.’

Jean-Marie Cavada had yet to respond to an emailed request for comment at the time of writing.

london.eye.crop[Photo credits: C Cheesman]