Photography News: EU Freedom of Photography under threat


by Bellamy /

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Photography News: EU Freedom of Photography under threat
So, basically it has been reported in the previous week that the Freedom of Panorama ruling has come under threat in the EU parliament. What this basically means is that publishing images (and selling them) of public buildings and artworks in most of the EU could be axed. This would put massive curbs on what you are able to photograph and publish online.

Needless to say this is a ridiculous concept. So if I take a picture of Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower), I then have to obtain permission from the architect, Sir Charles Barry, who has been dead for 150 years? Otherwise I cannot put my picture on farcebook?
Most, but not all countries in the EU have a Freedom of Panorama ruling, which basically means that you don’t have to obtain permission to take pictures of public buildings and artworks, and can even sell your images. Some countries do not have this, most notably France and Italy. So those holiday snaps you have of the leaning tower of Pisa and the Eiffel Tower, yeah, you cannot share them online. Best break out the slide projector and bore your friends to death.

A very thoughtful MEP (there are a few) Julia Reda, realised that this is completely absurd and put forth a proposal to remove all limitations on Freedom of Panorama in Europe. Which is an excellent idea. Unfortunately this was hijacked by other MEP’s, in particular a certain delightful individual named Jean-Marie Cavada (, whom you may also tweet to here

Mr Cavada and others have decided to turn the proposal around and make sure that instead of protecting our Freedom of Panorama, they want to make sure that the rules already in place in France and a few other countries will be applicable all over the EU. Which is completely absurd.

This has huge ramifications. With countries like the UK already threatening photographers and harassing them for taking pictures in public, this could mean even more stringent restrictions on what you can photograph. Which really goes against everything I believe in. The last time I was in the UK, I had a jumped up little jobsworth in a yellow jacket trying to grab my camera and threatening to get the police because I was taking pictures on the street, variously calling me a terrorist and a paedo. I was actually taking a picture of the Shard. We don’t need any more of this.

You can read more about this issue and how it may affect you by going and reading Julia Reda’s very informative website

You can also find your MEP here if you are in the EU, so you can write to them and inform them that this is nonsense.

And you can also sign this petition to show your support for this being stopped in its tracks.

This is a complex issue and needs to be addressed before we lose even more rights. Taking away one freedom will make it easier to take away even more. So please get involved and put a stop to this.


19 comments on “Photography News: EU Freedom of Photography under threat”

    Scott W June 28, 2015 at 10:29 am / Reply

    So ridiculous. Signed the petition. Thanks Bellamy.

    MM June 28, 2015 at 1:47 pm / Reply

    Signed it as well. If this passed, there would be no stopping it in other countries as well…

    Tim Jones June 28, 2015 at 2:53 pm / Reply

    Jeez – unbelievable – have signed.

    Rachelle M June 28, 2015 at 4:48 pm / Reply

    Signed it as well. I’m not a professional photographer, but having a law like this would really restrict my photography, as it is primarily travel-based. Hopefully the MEPs will come to their senses and not pass this ridiculous law.

    aurèle June 28, 2015 at 6:54 pm / Reply

    Let me put some light on things you apparently don’t know about this law (and it’s model, the French legislation).

    The proposal put to vote is made on the same model as the french law.
    It means you can’t take a picture of a building and make that building the main subject of your picture and sell it without autorization of the owner of the building (the State, in the case of a monument).
    If you have some building or monument in your picture and that is part of the background (as a compositional element ) you can sell this print without any authorisation.

    If i make a simple exemple with the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, France. You cannot : take a picture of the Eiffel tower alone and sell it as a print without autorisation.
    You can : take a picture of two lover kissing with the Eiffel Tower in the background, and sell it as is without autorisation (because the main subject are the two lovers, and the Eiffel tower is simply a compositional element that help to emphasize the love thing)

    Said shortly : it won’t change anything for anyone, only for the State as a owner of monuments : they will now have the monopoly of selling art print of their own property.

    This also will probably apply in movies too, in the long run.

    aurele June 28, 2015 at 7:29 pm / Reply

    I would add to my previous comment that :

    This law is just a way for countries to get some money to preserve those monuments,thanks to the people who earn some money thanks to those monuments, without actually contributing to the preservation of those same building.

    Do you imagine yourself visiting the Statue of Liberty, in the US, and not paying even a dime to keep this place clean (to say the least) ? I guess not. It’s the same for the monuments.

    MM June 28, 2015 at 9:22 pm / Reply

    But who decides what the subject of your photo is? Sure, take the picture of the two lovers kissing, and try to post it on any social media, after this law were to pass. No one would let you post it due to protecting themselves. Facebook, Instagram, all sites will follow this law to the tee, meaning that you will be out of luck.

    Monuments like these have always been photographed since the inception of the camera. Taking those pictures is something that has and should remain free from any laws, save the one that protects our right to photograph it! The upkeep of these beautiful places comes from taxes, donations, entrance fees, and I for one would gladly pay a little more to get a better spot than be denied the right to take and post my pictures in the manner I choose.

    Laws like these always sound simple, at first. Then they are ammended and the noose will tighten. Paranoia (read: greed / corrupt with power) seems to be the order of the day…

    Tianhe Yang June 28, 2015 at 11:59 pm / Reply

    Absurd. Such a shame that France, the birthplace of street photography, has already made taking pictures of public spaces such a nightmare, and that other EU nations could be soon to follow. Thanks for sharing; petition signed and shared.

    stanislaw riccadonna zolczynski June 29, 2015 at 12:51 am / Reply


    aurele June 29, 2015 at 4:51 am / Reply

    Obviously you (MM and Tianhe Yang) didn’t either read or understand.

    about social media :
    You can post any picture you want on social media, you remain the sole owner of the picture and as such, if you do copyright infrigement, you will be pursue in court of justice … juste like you can now, on any country that have copyright. This law won’t change a thing on that point.

    about street photography :
    What is consider as a main subject is no subject to debate whatsover : when you see a picture and there is only a building on it, then it’s obvious that the subject of the picture is the building. You can’t sell this without licence of the monument owner because it’s copyright infrigement.

    You do realise that if, instead of a building, you do photographe a painting or a sculpture, and sell the fine art prints, without asking the creator a licence, it’s a copyright infrigement ?

    It’s the same thing here : the law will extend the “ownership of image ” that exists for the pieces of art, to the architectural things.

    Take a picture of people in front of a building, and make those people the main thing of the picture, then the building is only here for compositional purpose. you don’t have to pay anything to any building owner.

    People cry, shout and complain about laws, but they don’t even know the current ones, even when it’s about the medium they use to gain some money.

    Many people are against copyright laws, until someone decide to steal their picture, and do some money on their back; suddenly, there is no words harsh enought to describe this outrage.

    Tianhe Yang June 29, 2015 at 1:35 pm / Reply

    Aurele, I assure you that I did indeed read into this, and that posting images on networks such as Facebook could indeed be deemed illegal if these restrictions go through. In the Facebook terms of service, it clearly states that:

    “For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

    Because Facebook can use your images for their own commercial interests, it falls under these restrictions.

    As for determining whether or not a building is the main motif in a photograph, that is open to huge subjective interpretation. And without an objective criteria given, like the ratio of the size of the main motif relative to that of the building, or how the motif should be composed to be considered the primary one, then it is open to the whims of a third party to interpret this. Because of that, I don’t think that the concerns over whether or not *any* picture containing a building in question could be deemed illegal are unfounded, even if the photographer believes that the building is not the primary motif of the photo.

    Unlike the analogy you gave of making reproductions of artwork, a building is surrounded by stuff that isn’t part of the building itself, including people on the street, traffic, and foliage, not to mention that it’s in three dimensional space, on a much bigger scale, and impossible to “reproduce” with a photograph. The copyright case that deemed Google’s image search thumbnails legal, for example, based their decision on the transformative nature of the thumbnails – they are used for a different purpose, and the quality is much lower compared to the originals. Not being a legal expert, I still feel that images of buildings surely qualify for these two criteria also.

    Joseph Sambataro June 29, 2015 at 3:24 pm / Reply

    Watch your ass very closely America. Abolishing certain types of firearms is only the beginning of all freedoms being lost.

    MM June 29, 2015 at 5:59 pm / Reply

    Aurele, thank you for your comments! Perhaps you are right, and this law would enable those building and monuments to be protected against copyrights and generate a form of income / revenue for upkeep. Keeping a positive outlook is very important!

    However, I find the very nature of a law that restricts what and where you can photograph, very disturbing. Laws like this are subject to broad interpretation, and worse, enforcement by those who are ignorant of the true meaning of said laws.

    I am not from any of the countries that this law would affect, but if this law were passed, it would only be a matter of time before other countries would do the same.

    In short, any law that restricts or prohibits that which was once ok to photograph, opens a huge and potential far-reaching can of worms that would effect the very core of what photography is all about: creating a lasting image that everyone can enjoy.

    federico June 30, 2015 at 5:36 pm / Reply

    Hello Bellamy,
    informative article and appreciable initivative, that I will sign.
    I’m writing from italy and please allow me to make a clarification. The Italian law as the article rightly states require the permission of the owner of the cultural heritage/building for relinquishing the right (for example to be share on wikipedia under Creative Common licence) but as “recently” modified allows freely to shoot even inside museums for personal use and – under no circumstances – for lucrative purposes: “Sarà possibile scattare liberamente foto nei musei per uso personale e comunque senza scopo di lucro.”
    I’d like to know if in the other “red countries” (referring to the map published by the MEP, of course) there are similar premissions/restrictions.
    Thank you

    aurele June 30, 2015 at 6:30 pm / Reply


    In France, it’s the same as Italy : as long as it is for personal purpose you can take picture of any building. It’s when you start earning money from those picture that you have to getthe licence.

    aurele June 30, 2015 at 6:41 pm / Reply

    Tianhe Yang,

    For Facebook :
    When you post content, you are the one who’s posting it, and as such, you are the one responsible if you do copyright infrigement. No matter the CGI.
    Facebook, do not have the property of your creation : you allow them to use your content, to show it to others (to make it short).
    The facebook CGI concerning property is not reduce to this sentences. They appear in many many many sentence all along the CGI to make sure you never read them all.

    Abou google :
    Google don’t sell those image : they use the picture in a non-commercial way, so they are not under this law.

    The key point is : Making money with picture of a monument, by making this monument image the valuable thing.

    You can be afraid of this law, but it won’t change anything for 99.999% of the pro photographer.
    Do you really think that there is a huge competition in selling fine art print of monuments ?

    Tim Jones July 1, 2015 at 3:39 am / Reply

    You can just imagine the jobsworths getting hold of this. Its bad enough in the UK now, photographer=terrorist, photographer=paedo etc. Its probably not the law per se that’s at fault, but it’ll be those that (love to) implement it. Give them a fancy peaked hat and a high vis jacket and they’ll be all over you like a rash as soon as you get the camera out near a building.

    Si Brown July 2, 2015 at 5:59 pm / Reply

    A curious thought, as here in the British Isles the National Trust has a similarly restrictive bye-laws. They specifically ban photography, yet make no mention of painting, sketching etcetera.

    I wonder if this latest piece of legislation will make the same distinction?

    Maurits July 9, 2015 at 11:51 pm / Reply

    Well, good news Bellamy! Today a vast majority of the Members of the European Parliament voted against the crazy plan threatening Freedom of Panorama in the European Union.

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