DACS’ position on Europe’s ‘Freedom of Panorama’ debate

    The exception to copyright law allowing people to create and share images and photographs of copyright-protected buildings and artworks on public display has been at the centre of a recent debate in the European Parliament, and has been widely covered in the media.

    Background to the ‘Freedom of Panorama debate

    ‘Freedom of Panorama’ is a term used by the media to describe the notion that allows public works of art and public buildings to be photographed and filmed without the prior authorisation from the rightholder. 
    ‘Freedom of Panorama’ is not a ‘right’ as such but rather an exception to copyright law. Different countries in Europe have their own approach to the exception: some countries operate a restricted form, whilst other countries, such as France, do not have an exception at all. 
    In the UK, there has been a long-standing exception to copyright stating that for certain artistic works on permanent public display, authorisation from the rightholder will not be needed to photograph or film them. In the UK this relates only to sculptures and public buildings, but not, for example, murals.

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    Why is it being debated?

    As part of its initiative to modernise copyright for the digital age, the European Commission is currently looking at how it can reform and harmonise copyright across countries within the EU. A report was prepared by the MEP Julia Reda, who is a member of the Pirate Party in Germany, and one of her proposals was to allow photographing and filming of all works permanently located in public places without authorisation from the rightholder.  

    In response to Julia Reda’s recommendations, MEP Jean-Marie Cavada, a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group, tabled a proposal to amend the resolution on copyright reform. This amendment stated that the commercial use of photographs and films of permanently located works should always require the authorisation of the rightholder.

    This was widely covered in the press and in social media, and led many vocal campaigners including photographers and the founder of Wikipedia, to speak out and call for the rejection of Cavada’s amendment.  

    On 9 July 2015, European Parliament voted on Reda’s full report and whether to reject or accept any of the amendments, including Cavada’s. The overwhelming majority of MEPs voted against Cavada’s amendment with 445 votes to 65, and 32 abstentions. The report was intended to give non-binding guidelines to the European Commission, who have announced that new copyright laws will be proposed by the end of this year.  

    What is DACS’ position on the ‘Freedom of Panorama’ principle?

    DACS represents a wide range of visual artists and creative industry professionals, including fine artists, architects and photographers.

    We are acutely aware that photographers were especially concerned about the  suggested changes to the law that would interfere with the exception allowing photography of sculptures, buildings and permanent monuments  in public spaces.

    As DACS operates under UK copyright law we already recognise the disputed exception, and currently do not support a reopening of the Information Society Directive, where the exception originates from.

    We will continue to monitor proposals to change and modernise copyright across the EU and report on any changes. As always, we keep the interests of the visual artists we represent at heart.
    Read our copyright factsheet about art on permanent public display

    Image: Globe Head Ballerina, 2012 (Installation view, Royal Opera House, London, 2012, Yinka Shonibare MBE © Yinka Shonibare MBE. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2015. Image courtesy Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Commissioned by the Royal Opera House, London.

    Posted on 10/07/2015 by Laura Ward-Ure