The European Parliament created a photo contest to celebrate the end of “all extra roaming charges” in Europe, inviting European citizens to share their “summer pictures from all around Europe” on Instagram.
— European Parliament (@Europarl_EN) July 21, 2017
The problem is that not all European countries have the Freedom of Panorama exception. In those countries, the citizen that takes a photograph must check if it includes a building, a sculpture, a painting or other work that is still under copyright (good luck with that!) and in that case will have to ask for permission from the rightholders, which is almost impossible and/or will imply the citizen pays whatever the rightholders ask.
This means that countries like Italy, that don’t have the exception, will be hardly represented in the contest. The same with countries, like France, that have the exception but only for non-commercial uses: citizens participate in the contest by uploading their photos to Instagram, that can make money with that content and thus commercial use. Recently, the Wikimedia Sweden lost a case in court, because it seems “that works freely displayed in public could be photographed but, irrationally (in our view), could not be shared online” (I find it irrationally, too!). You can check the status of the exception by country in the Wikimedia Commons page (some countries have the exception, but it does not cover all types of works).
So, what it seemed a really good idea to promote cohesion, knowledge and culture throughout European countries can actually turn out to be a terrible idea. Some of the photos already submitted depicting buildings and sculptures can be infringing copyright.
One of the submitted photographs depicts the Place Royale, in Nantes, where the installation La Terre où les arbres rêvent 2017, two sculptures by Laurent Pernot, can be seen. Although France has freedom of panorama, the exception only covers non-commercial uses, which is not the case of Instagram. So there is a good chance this photo is infringing copyright.
What will the European Parliament do, after telling European citizens to share their “summer pictures from all around Europe”? Will it accept these photos that can be infringing copyright? Will it reject them, discriminating those countries that don’t have the exception or have a very narrow one? Will the EP tell the participants why their photos are not being accepted? Will the European Parliament check all the photos before accepting them? Some of them don’t even refer the country or the place where they were taken, the task can be almost impossible.
I’m really not seeing a happy ending here.
I hope the European Parliament takes their own example to reflect on the need of a mandatory freedom of panorama exception, that is not restricted to non-commercial purposes, in all European countries, and vote favourably the proposal that is on the table, after the summer holidays.
Featured Image: European Parliament by Francisco Antunes. Creative Commons – BY.