Threat to Freedom of Panorama

Photo above by Redeye member Martin Bouchier.


Photographers' groups have united to oppose an attempt to limit photography of urban landscapes and buildings.

The UK (along with the majority of other European countries), has so-called "Freedom of Panorama" which allows anyone to photograph buildings and works of art on permanent public display, without seeking permission from the creators of these works. The European Parliament is considering proposals to harmonise copyright law across Europe, and one MEP has tabled an amendment that would restrict this freedom across Europe - the reverse of the original proposal to allow freedom of panorama in all countries. The proposals go to the vote on 9 July.

Redeye's Paul Herrmann, who also chairs the umbrella group of photographers' member organisations, the British Photographic Council, said:

"We have a long established freedom to take photographs in a public place in the UK, and the more recent Human Rights Act enshrines freedom of expression. The new proposed amendment goes completely against these freedoms. The consequence if it became law would be unthinkable. Overnight, millions of photographs would be illegal to display on a website. It wouldn't just affect photography of buildings and monuments, but potentially photos of anything that has an "author" - anything having a clear design covered by copyright that appears in public. The owners or designers of the buildings themselves might make a few pounds in fees but our photographic culture would change overnight, and our visual history would become dramatically poorer."

Paul Herrmann along with many from other photo and media organisations, and Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, signed a letter that appears in The Times in the UK on 26 June 2015. The full text of that letter reads as follows:

Sir, We agree that moves to restrict the freedom to photograph buildings and artworks in public places, currently permitted under section 62 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, should give rise to the greatest concern (leader, June 24).

If such a measure is adopted in the future, most websites and most photographers would instantly become copyright infringers with any photo of any public space which features at least one structure designed by a person that is either alive, or died fewer than 70 years ago.

The prohibition would dramatically affect the way we share knowledge, culture and current events, as well as our everyday lives. Tourists would not be able to promote our country with their photographs on commercial websites such as Facebook or Flickr; Wikipedia, which is designed to be free for any use, would not be able to describe our landmarks; and professional photographers would need to contact dozens of rightsholders for any photo they shoot in public spaces, spending more money on paperwork than they can possibly earn with the outcome. Even blogs which have advertising would be affected.

We urge all UK MEPs to vote not to let the current paragraph 16 go through unamended during the vote in the plenary session in Strasbourg on July 9, and to defend our right to make and use photos of public spaces.

Paul Herrmann, chairman, British Photographic Council; Jeff Moore, chairman, British Press Photographers’ Association; Denise Swanson, British Institute of Professional Photographers; Jimmy Wales, founder, Wikipedia; Nigel Atherton, editor, Amateur Photographer; Stewart Gibson, Bureau of Freelance Photographers; Dr Michael Pritchard, director-general, Royal Photographic Society; Charles Swan, Association of Photographers; David Hoffman, Editorial Photographers UK; Simon Chapman, National Union of Journalists; Dominic Cooper, general secretary, Chartered Institute of Journalists; Alastair McCapra, chief executive, Chartered Institute of Public Relations; Jim Killock, executive director, Open Rights Group.

If you'd like to get involved, we'd suggest you look at this new petition on the subject on You can also write to your MEP, ideally before the vote on 9 July 2015.

See the full Motion here. The relevant paragraph is 46.


Redeye, Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art, Market Buildings, Thomas St, Manchester M4 1EU, UK
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