Holiday photos and copyright

Tourist Europe Vacation

We’ve mentioned before some of the proposed changes to EU copyright law contained in a report authored by German MEP Julia Reda. Today we’re exploring the potential impact of another element – a change to the “freedom of panaroma”. We’ll also be introducing some wider considerations about the ownership of photograph copyright.

First, let’s start with some background to the proposed changes:

Now you see it, soon you won’t?

Within her recent report, Reda suggested a change to the “freedom of panorama” which allows people in countries including the UK, Spain and Germany to take and publish photos of public buildings and art installations without breaching copyright.  However, the legal committee chose to add in the following clause that could have copyright ramifications for the humble holidaymaker. The clause states: “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.”

The intention was likely to target professional photographers who may want to take photographs of works such as the Angel of the North and would if this was introduced need express permission to do so. In France where the exception is not active, copyright already protects the Eiffel Tower at night. The issue is that if introduced, this rule would mean that ordinary people who take photographs of such works in the UK then publish them to social media sites could be punished. In some instances publishing to social media sites could be construed as commercial use because such sites can be classed as commercial enterprises. Holidaymakers who then publish their photos in this way could be liable for some potentially hefty fines. Of course, photo-sharing does pose other problems and the recent case of artist Richard Prince selling other people’s Instagram photos as art raises further questions about copyright when sharing images online.

What does this mean for brands?

For businesses here in the UK who operate attractions like the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE) who hold the rights to the Eiffel Tour lit up at night, this change if implemented could be a mixed blessing. On the one hand it would protect investment in such installations but it may also put tourists off. There are also implications for the numerous holiday photography competitions that brands run every year. These tend to ask entrants to sign over copyright to their images and they’d likely need to have stricter rules to ensure no images taken breached copyright.

People and profit

With high demand for stock photography and an increasing number of amateur photographers among the smartphone generation, lots of people are trying their hand at selling their snaps online on sites such as EyEm. If you plan to give your own holiday snaps a new lease of life in this way you should not only be aware of permissions regarding any architecture or works of art captured in your snaps but of people who are identifiable too. Without a written waiver, you’ll be unable to sell photos where people are clearly identifiable, even though you own copyright of the image itself. And, another thought to ponder – if you’re in the photograph because someone else kindly took it for you – they as the photo creator technically own the copyright. That is of course unless you employ a personal photographer to accompany you on vacation to get snap happy on your behalf!

At the moment there are lots of ifs and mights, but you may want to take a few extra photographs during any staycations in the UK this year, just in case.  And, if you’re planning to sell any of your holiday photographs online, do make sure you’re not breaching copyright by doing so.