I'm quite interested on the current discussion on "freedom of panorama" in EU, which seems to basically restrict a lot photographers' possibility to take shots of monuments, architecture and maybe even landscapes.
Wikipedia says that the discussion may have catastrophic effects, but I can't find the actual text of the proposal, so it's for me a little hard to have an opinion.
Can anyone give me some information/sources and possibly explain a bit better if the copyright infringement is retroactive too and what would happen if the owner of the photographed panorama/object does not reply to the asked permission?

EDIT: Apparently the discussion was put on hold / let down

  • \$\begingroup\$ There isn't even a draft or proposal for a legislation yet, just a recommendation by a commission. Nothing of this can be answered yet. \$\endgroup\$
    – his
    Jul 2, 2015 at 7:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it possible to read it anywhere? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 2, 2015 at 7:42

5 Answers 5


Here is the draft on "harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society": http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+COMPARL+PE-546.580+02+DOC+PDF+V0//EN

Note the paragraph numbered 16.

There are amendments here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+COMPARL+PE-549.469+01+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN

Amendment 421 is the contentious one.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you summarize some of the detail here? It's not really a complete answer as is. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Jul 2, 2015 at 12:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm the document doesn't really say anything. It's not the actual text of the new law, merely a document stating it's adoption. \$\endgroup\$
    – jwenting
    Jul 2, 2015 at 12:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm the ammendment however is crystal clear. It reads that ANY commercial use of ANY photograph of ANY item owned by someone not the photographer requires a permit from the owner of that item. So if you're taking a landscape photograph you need permission from the owners of the area, the owners of anything visible in the scene, etc. etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – jwenting
    Jul 2, 2015 at 12:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's just one proposed amendment by one person. If you continue reading through the pages, you get other proposed amendments to the same sentence from other people \$\endgroup\$ Jul 2, 2015 at 14:15

Here's the text from the proposal that's causing the stir, and it's indeed troublesome to say the least:

  1. 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

That's ammendment 421 to paragraph 16. Ammendment document as linked by osullic previously

This would require anyone taking photographs to get permission beforehand of anything (s)he wants to include in a scene if that photograph may end up being used for commercial purposes (which basically means anywhere outside the scope of your own home, a website hosting Google ads is likely to be considered commercial for example because it generates income from those ads, thus placing a photo on it would classify as commercial use under a strict reading of the law).

Wikipedia has a policy of only allowing content that's in the public domain, published under Creative Commons.
Photographs of anything taken in the EU would under this clause be impossible to publish under CC, thus Wikipedia would have to remove any photograph taken in the EU (and specifically any photograph of buildings and other structures located in the EU).
But it doesn't just hit Wikipedia. It hits any photographer operating in the EU. That picture of the Eiffel Tower your niece took during her school trip to Paris that she placed on her Facebook page or Flickr album would be in violation unless she got permission in writing to use it from the owners of the Eiffel Tower (and the owners of any other building, car, etc. etc. visible in the picture as well).

Mind that I'm not a laywer, let alone an intellectual property lawyer, but a literal reading of the clause makes me interpret it that way, and it's no doubt how courts will interpret it when they handle claims from say Disney when they sue people posting pictures of their trip to Eurodisney on Facebook...

Mind it would not just be buildings either. As written my gratuitous cat picture would be illegal to upload to any site making money from it without getting permission from the guy who made the carpet he's standing on.
gratuitous cat picture

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's important to note that this is an EU directive not an EU regulation, that means states are free to interpret the content and implement it (or not) however they see fit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Jul 2, 2015 at 13:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MattGrum in theory. In practice all countries turn those into law near instantly, and most are quickly adopted by the EP and EC as regulations. \$\endgroup\$
    – jwenting
    Jul 2, 2015 at 17:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, what's really at issue here isn't so much that people posting their vacation pictures for friends will be sued, but that repositories of freely-licensed images like Wikimedia Commons will have to remove large numbers of images because they will become impossible to freely-license. This is an often-missed point, I think. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 2, 2015 at 23:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Remove... I don't know yet. Until today I didn't find any info on retroactiveness... But still as you say, those are recommendations \$\endgroup\$ Jul 3, 2015 at 4:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Noldor130884 - "Remove" because, even in the non-retroactive case, people will still be uploading, in good faith, images that are in violation that will need to be constantly detected and removed, creating an increased maintenance workload along with everything else. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 3, 2015 at 6:03

What is the impact of the EU discussion on restricting freedom of panorama?

None whatsover.

The European Parliament has no power to create legislation, that is the job of the European Commission, so until they propose a change to the law there's nothing to worry about.


To keep things in perspective, laws that impose overly restrictive limits on what people can do in free democratic countries tend to get ignored and as a result cannot be enforced. You cannot stop people from taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower and post that on Facebook, no matter what laws are passed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ But you can sue them. Or send take down notices, which is a veritable business in Germany, for example. \$\endgroup\$
    – ths
    Jul 3, 2015 at 9:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ths Yes, but you then get the "safety in numbers" effect. You can only sue a limited number of people in practice, the pictures of the Eiffel Tower will still be available freely on the internet. So, these efforts amount to tilting at windmills. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 3, 2015 at 16:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't mitigate the "chilling effect" that this would have on organizations that needed to comply with laws, though. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 4, 2015 at 18:37

I'm glad you posted the topic here.

In reacent years there has being this "intelectual property protections" iniciatives. SOPA, the spanish law "forcing" people to recive compensation https://www.google.com.mx/search?q=spanish+law+conten, presure to close entire websites.

There is a chance this laws does not goes anywhere. But they will pass if no one pays atention on them.

Some explanations here: https://juliareda.eu/2015/06/fop-under-threat/

On July 9, the plenary of the European parliament is going to vote on my report. This is the last chance for the MEPs to discuss and change the stance on the subject of Freedom of Panorama that they want to communicate to the Commission.


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