The freedom to snap and share

Anyone who opened Wikipedia during the past weeks, saw landmark buildings such as the Eiffel tower or the Erasmus bridge, blacked out in pictures. Similarly, as Members of Parliament we received countless emails. Citizens and freelancers were wondering why the European Parliament would want to restrict the right to take and share pictures, in the public domain. The controversial text that sought to limit the so called freedom of panorama, is part of a report suggesting changes in copyright in Europe. And although D66/ALDE leads the efforts in reforming and harmonizing copyright in Europe, not all change and harmonization goes in the right direction. In the legal affairs committee the following text was adopted: "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." But what does that imply? Would a freelance photographer, seeking to take a picture of a celebrity in front of the Louvre, or a Minister in front of a war monument, first find the rights holder, and ask for permission, before selling the picture to a newspaper? Or would I have to check who holds or manages the copyrights of the Peace palace or the Acropolis before uploading a picture of it on social media or a website? While technically the question is when commercial use becomes commercial, we have seen in the past that rights holders and their managers go to extraordinary lengths to get numeration. This is not always reasonable. Particularly when it comes to works permanently placed in the public sphere, people should not be held back to snap and share pictures in the street. To make sure this freedom is not limited, I submitted the following text: "Recognises the right to use photographs, video footage or other images of works which are permanently located in public places." The vote on this non legislative report ended up with a rejection of my amendment, but the worrisome text was also voted out of the report. That means that there is now nothing explicitly stated in the report on the freedom of panorama. Therefore the current situation (different in each member state) remains as it is. But the discussion on copyright reform is far from over. It will come back in the context of the Digital Single Market, which we need in Europe. I will keep pushing for reforms that embrace the opportunities of digital technologies, and that help creators reach audiences all over Europe. That means geo-blocking has to end, and other fragmentation that hinders start-ups in rolling out innovative services must be changed in future proof legislation.
See also: 01-07-2015 Safeguarding the freedom of panorama 05-03-2014 MEP: High time for modern European copyright laws london-eye-copyright-panorama By Kham Tran - (Derived from File:London-Eye-2009.JPG) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons