The vacation photos of your trip to Europe are about to become illegal. You probably haven’t heard about something called the Freedom of Panorama, but it’s an exemption in copyright law that allows you to share (and sell) photos of public buildings and spaces. It’s completely legal for you to share that photo of you and your family standing in front of the Eiffel Tower (as long it’s in the daytime; the twinkly lights that adorn the Paris landmark at night are in fact protected under copyright). However, the European Union is about to pass legislation which would outlaw posting pictures of certain famous landmarks in Europe. An amendment to the proposed legislation reads “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.” In theory the legal reform will protect the rights of architects, ensuring that others don’t profit by their creations, but others see it as restricting photographers’ freedom of expression. “The change in law would mainly prevent professional photographers who sell pictures of copyrighted landmarks but lawyers fear that the proposal would create a ‘grey area’ for photos shared on social media also,” reports the Independent.
While it’s doubtful anyone’s going to come after you for posting a picture of the London Eye on Facebook, the biggest loser in all this might be Wikimedia, as many of the photos that are currently available via Wikimedia Commons will have to be removed for breaching copyright. A petition to bring the Freedom of Panorama to every country in the EU and save “the freedom of photography” on Change.org has gained almost 200,000 signatures. “The current draft turned the proposal upside down,” writes photographer Niko Trinkhaus. “Instead of bringing the Freedom of Panorama to the few countries that don’t know such law yet, it would take it away from all those who do. With this, Street-, Travel- and Architecture-Photography would be dead as we know it. It is impossible to find out the architect of every public building in order to ask for permission before you can publish and possibly sell the photo.”