Monday

16th Sep 2019

Focus

Freedom to take photos divides MEPs

  • Could the EU effectively ban tourist photos? (Photo: Peter Teffer)

Not a second seems to go by on Amsterdam's central Dam Square without a tourist taking a photo.

A woman is photographing a pair of fiddlers, two young women use a selfie-stick, a man takes a picture of a woman with a pigeon in her hand.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • The Netherlands has implemented freedom of panorama (Photo: Peter Teffer)

Many tourists also take pictures of the square's royal palace, but also of Amsterdam's newer buildings. They are free to do so, including of buildings which are still protected by copyright.

But buildings too can be protected by copyright – a fact many people are unaware of.

Several EU countries, including the Netherlands, have adopted a principle called freedom of panorama, which allows you to take photos in public places and do with them what you like.

But a report due to be voted on in the European Parliament Thursday afternoon (9 July) has raised fears that this principle is is “under threat”.

The report, by German MEP Julia Reda, is a non-binding text meant to feed into European Commission legislative proposals on copyright due later this year.

The freedom of panorama principle is causing a scuffle among MEPs.

Reda herself called for the principle to be upheld across the EU - currently the copyright exception is voluntary and not adopted by countries like France, Belgium, and Italy.

Amendment

However, during the vote on amendments in the parliament's legal affairs committee, a majority of committee MEPs supported a change proposed by French Liberal MEP Jean-Marie Cavada.

The amendment reads:

"[The European Parliament] 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”.

If this ever made it into law, it would have wide-ranging implications.

This is because the term "commercial use" has become blurry since the advent of social media. Facebook for example, states in its contract that it may use commercially any photo its users have uploaded .

For Reda, the change to the hard-fought report carrying her name, stings.

She has put forward another amendment. But, at the minimum, she wants Cavada's paragraph deleted.

Reda said she will vote against her own report if it says freedom of panorama needs to be restricted.

Status quo

Meanwhile, the centre-right EPP group, whose committee members had supported Cavada, sent out a press release on Wednesday, to calm those who fear "that the EU is about to legislate to ‘ban’ or ‘censor’ tourist photos of famous monuments, buildings and art work”.

It noted that the four main groups in the European Parliament support the status quo.

But it is the status quo which has led to a situation where citizens are unaware of what they can and cannot share.

“There are some countries in the EU today that don't have freedom of panorama, but nevertheless the ordinary person shares pictures of public buildings without ever thinking about copyright implications”, said Reda.

'It's allowed, right?'

And indeed, in Amsterdam, one tourist expressed confusion when confronted with the idea of copyright-protected buildings.

Mary Khurtsidze from Georgia was walking on Dam Square with a single-lens reflex camera hanging from her neck.

“I will upload the pictures on my Facebook. It's allowed, right?”, she said.

Khurtsidze was not aware that during a previous trip to Paris, different rules applied compared to her current holiday in Amsterdam.

“Nobody told me”, the tourist said.

“If it is not allowed to take pictures, there should be some signs outside. Am I in trouble?”.

No, she is not. No matter if the Netherlands has implemented freedom of panorama or not - the architect's copyright on the 17th century town hall-turned royal palace has long expired.

Copyright: Anatomy of a controversial report

The EU parliament's text on copyright has sailed through committee, but only after a long fight by its author, including on prejudice against her political colours.

German Pirate MEP kicks off EU copyright debate

The European Parliament is gearing up for what is expected to be a tough fight on reforming the EU's fragmented copyright rules. A German Pirate MEP is leading the way.

EP adopts 'watered down' copyright report

MEPs have adopted keenly-awaited proposals they'd like to see in the commission’s forthcoming copyright reform, but they were roundly criticised by all sides.

Some EU states face delays in 5G preparation

National governments secured a one-year extension for publishing plans to make radio frequencies available for mobile communications - but some were nevertheless unable to meet the deadline.

News in Brief

  1. Nearly 100 refugees evacuated from Libya to Italy
  2. Juncker to meet Johnson on Monday
  3. First Hungary 'Article 7' hearing set for Monday
  4. Vestager picks Danish EU ambassador as cabinet head
  5. Commissioner hearings will start 30 September
  6. Italy says EU countries agree to take in rescued migrants
  7. Germany to organise Libya conference on arms embargo
  8. European Parliament to support another Brexit delay

Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?

The success of the new general data protection regulation (GDPR) will depend on whether data protection authorities enforce the new rules - which, in turn, will be at least partly determined by how many people they employ.

Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline

The EU starts enforcing its general data protection regulation on 25 May - but Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia won't be ready. The delay will cause legal uncertainty.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  2. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  3. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  4. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  5. Central European leaders demand EU Balkan accession
  6. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity
  7. The Catalan National Day has been a success. Why?
  8. Why I'm voting against the von der Leyen commission

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us