How many pictures do you take when you visit historical sites, or famous landmarks? 10? 20? 100? I for one take far too many when I’m out and about, but this may have to change.
New EU reforms are being proposed that may find me, and you, breaching copyright if we take a picture of a landmark, famous architecture, or piece of artwork for publication.
New laws are being put forward in Brussels that would require you to obtain permission from the relevant copyright holder before a photo is taken, even if the landmark is only in the background.
At the moment we can all take pictures of the Eiffel Tower during the day, but did you know that at night you may be breaching copyright? This is because the illuminations are actually copyrighted so you need permission to publish such images.
The consequence of the new laws, if put in place, might be that monuments such as the Angel of the North and the London Eye, or public works of art such as Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth or Liverpool’s Superlambananas, would need to be blacked out in holiday snaps to avoid breaching the copyright of individual architects or artists. You and I would only be able to upload an uncensored photograph with prior consent from the author.
The proposals are really meant to just affect commercial photographers who are looking to make money out of their images. However, the rulings could affect the general public if the point was pressed. For example, if you were to post the pictures on Facebook or on your blog it could leave you open to legal challenge for publishing images of copyrighted designs.
In the UK we have the freedom to take any pictures we like, but on the continent rules and restrictions are already imposed, such as in France and Belgium. If the proposed laws are passed it could mean the need to get permission before you take the picture.
Again, it’s much more likely to affect those who take pictures for a living than the general public, but even this could have a knock on effect. Say you’re getting married and wish to have your day immortalised in front of the Angel of the North. Your photographer would need to get permission because the sculpture is copyrighted, and if they cannot get permission then your dream location would not be available for your use. Even if permission is given, this may only be in return for a fee in which case the photographer is likely to pass this fee on to you.
So it’s a case of “watch this space.” There are many organisations against the proposed amendment, even though they could potentially benefit from the change in the law through copyright fees. While the proposals are well intentioned in order to protect the artists and architects, it may have a negative cultural impact by reducing debate and acknowledgement of the arts.
Katherine Niccol is a Business Services Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
If you or your business has been affected, or could be affected by the changes, it’s advisable to seek professional legal advice. Slater and Gordon’s expert team of intellectual property solicitors are experienced in all aspects of copyright law. Call us on freephone 0800 223 0532 or contact us online and we will call you.