A new copyright reform is being debated in the European parliament which would have terrible consequences for the way we travel.
One of my favourite things about travel is the joy found in capturing moments, memories and little slices of local life in the places we visit.
The proposed amendment to the Freedom of Panorama threatens all of that. Freedom of Panorama is ‘the unrestricted right to use photographs of public spaces, without infringing the rights of the architect or the visual artist.’
Many countries currently enjoy this freedom. The threat to the Freedom of Panorama means that we travellers, tourists and bloggers will no longer be able to freely take and share photographs of famous landscapes in Europe. In order to share the images, whether with friends on a social media account, on your blog, or as an artistic endeavor, permission will have to be sought from the architect of whatever building happens to be in the frame.
While I do respect rules regarding photography in museums or religious sites, I still find it so tempting not to take photos in places where it is restricted! I don’t know what I would do if the whole of Europe was under these restrictions.
To me, photography is something that just can’t be beaten. Yes, I am a writer first, and a photographer second, and while there is nothing quite like scribbling the details of a day of exploring in a notebook, hand aching while you sit on a bus to your next destination, photography offers the same ability to capture and express a moment you want to remember, only instantaneously.
When I look back on my travel photos distinct memories come rushing back, from the way the sun felt on my skin, to the smells and sounds surrounding me at that particular moment.
Photography strengthens my memories, sustains my writing, and brings me happiness that is entwined in my love of travel.
To be restricted by having to seek permission before snapping a photo is not right. It’s unnecessary and to be honest, it nearly brings me out in hives just thinking about it.
While the argument can be made that to travel is to experience the moment, not to document it in a selfie-stick frenzy, and a very valid argument that is, to be restricted by rules preventing your ability to take a photograph seems so senseless and so wrong.
Why not let visitors capture moments next to the very expensive monuments countries have had built? Is is not the point of many of these landmarks to sell a city? To show off how pretty it is? To give tourists a reason to visit?
Perhaps the worst thing about all of this is that the issue was first raised by Julia Reda, who actually wanted to amend the rule so that the whole of the EU would enjoy the same Freedom of Panorama. Yet it has now been turned into the absolute opposite of her intentions.
I don’t see how this is of benefit to anyone. Architects and artists are paid for their commissions, as far as I’m aware, they don’t resent their work being the backdrop for tourists’ holiday snaps.
As a blogger, I find this proposed rule is all the more senseless. For purely selfish reasons, I want to share my travel photos on my travel blog. I want to show people places they have never been to, I want to bring a smile to those who have been there before. I want to be able to shine light on local people and their home town.
As a journalist, I am 100% against this. Photojournalism is about documenting. To place restrictions on the ability to take a photo of a building means that a journalist trying to capture, say, a protest, a crime or anything in the public interest, could be stopped by a law based on the commercial use of images in public spaces. There is room for a abuse here, and it should be stopped.
Even the delicious ability to take candid street photography, one of the greatest forms of photography, will be under severe threat if restrictions are placed on Freedom of Panorama. Can you imagine the works of Henri Cartier-Bresson WeGee or Humans of New York never seeing the light of day because of a restriction on photographing a building that is the inadvertent backdrop to a captured moment?
Wikipedia has a map with the current states of Freedom of Panorama in the world. Countries marked in green enjoy full Freedom of Panorama, light green countries have freedom to take photos of public buildings but not artworks.
Red countries already have those restrictions placed on them.
Speaking of Wikipedia, they are also concerned about this amendment, which would see the site stripped of its images of public buildings.
Another thing to consider is the use of the word ‘commercial.’ While you may have no intention of ever selling your travel photographs, that selfie you took of yourself at London’s Tower Bridge and shared on Facebook could be in violation of the restrictions. When you sign up to social media sites such as Facebook, the terms and conditions state that they have the right to use your images for commercial use. So, by that logic, in order to share your holiday photograph, even through a private message, you would have to find out who owns the rights to the building, contact them, and then draw up a licensing agreement.
Saving the Art of Photography
On July 9, a vote will be taken on this ‘reform.’ There is still time to sign a petition about this, and to contact your MEP (if you live in Europe) to request that this does not take place. If you want to be able to take a photograph when travelling and share it, then this is vital.
Not to sound dramatic, but the freedom of photography is being threatened and there isn’t much time left to save it.