Freedom of panorama: what is it, how we can have it?

Freedom of panorama is the possibility to make photos, videos or paintings of buildings or monuments permanently located on public spaces and to publish it.

It is a provision in copyright laws, because taking pictures etcetera is seen as a production of derivative works, which usually should be authorized by the owner of the copyright of the “object” whose your derivative work comes from.

The freedom of panorama depends on the legislation of the country you’re in: you could find a map of the european countries in which it exists here.

During the organization of the italian Wiki Loves Monuments (more informations here) we had to face the fact that italian laws doesn’t allow freedom of panorama -but we found out that there are some interpretations of the laws which allow us to do the contest anyway, don’t worry!- and probably nobody knows that in Italy: me first, I wasn’t aware that I couldn’t freely publish my own pictures of my own country!

I feel quite uncomfortable with this idea: why a good that is freely available to see and enjoy should not be freely available to rapresent? It’s something that doesn’t harm nobody, instead could enhance and promote the beautiful things that are in a country -and, as a consequence, the tourism will be encouraged too.

I don’t know how it works in other countries in which there’s not freedom of panorama, but in Italy you need to pay money to the copyright holder or to the State in order to share pictures of monuments who are located on public spaces.

Requesting money in order to fully “use” something for whose production, mainteinance and conservation someone had or have to pay money makes sense, but asking money to fully benefit of a public good doesn’t.

First of all, if an artist make a sculpture or a monument for the State it is already been payed by the State, so it is payed by the citizens, so it’s not fair to ask them to pay for something they have already payed.

Secondly, the costs of mainteinace should be carried or provided by the State: the presence of monuments or relevant buildings is a call for tourism, which should be able to pay with its income the costs of itself. And if tourism goes wrong, probably it’s a State’s fault, not a people-who-make-photos-of-monument’s fault.

Same thing if it’s not a national good but a private good: already payed, and the owner should be able to deal with the costs of maintenaince himself.

So, did you knew about the freedom of panorama issue? Does it exists in your country? And if it doesn’t, how does the law regulate it? What we could do to make it reality everywhere?

Not a clue

Go figure! The Italians perhaps have a strange way of understanding tourism and promotion of culture. Which is, by the way, so rich! This country is full of spendors of incomparable beauty. Who has not dreamed, once in his/her life, of sitting on an Italian piazza, to revel in the sight of a renaissance or baroque fountain?

I understand your discomfort. I would probably feel the same way.

No, I did not know about the freedom of panorama issue. But of course, I’m no copyright expert. It has been a very long time since I did not address these issues. I do not think that they existed, when I was active in the arts community.

Part of the problem

You know, Lyne? This may actually be part of the problem. We are told by many observers and economists that we are useless at things like science or industry, what we should focus on is luxury goods, food, tourism and leisure (I happen to disagree quite strongly, but that’s beside the point). The point is, as Ginevra also hinted at, that then, if panorama is an asset, people would try to monetize it, right? Looking at the map, you see that France the world’s no. 1 tourist destination, also has zero freedom of panorama. On the other hand Spain, currently ranking no. 4 (Italy is only no. 5), allows it… but maybe Spain is selling more the dry, warm weather.

Degeneracy of IPR

I was aware of the problem, but I guess I am not typical. I used to be in the music business, so I spent a lot of time thinking about and debating copyright issues.

Except for Hollywood lawyers, hardly anyone would agree with a prohibition to share a photo you took yourself of the Colosseum or the Dolomites. We clearly have a problem with Intellectual Property Rights (IPR); since lawyers think in deductive terms, i.e. they derive concrete applications  from general principles, it is hard to get rid of these degenerate effects without challenging the general principle that all works of intellect are someone’s private property. Behind the scenes, what is going on is a double-monetization of everything that gets reproduced in the high end of the media spectrum (Hollywood films and TV): on the one hand you get architects charging film producers to show their buildings; on the other you get “location placement”, with studios putting up for sale the location of the obligatory car chase in the next 007 movie. Who pays more or gives the production more services? Will it be Paris or Moscow? This is just one more effect of the “extremism” of the (mostly American) media industry, as explained by Clay Shirky in the video below.

The map is really useful, thank you!

Awarness of freedom of panorama

Of course I know this problem :slight_smile:

It is interesting however that very few people is aware of this issue, I think also in the publishing industry. And really each photo on each book, each journal, each travel guide is authorized? I think virtually nobody cares about such restriction; but of course this is not enough for people who wants to strictly abide by the law (like us on Wikimedia).

A friend of mine is a researcher in the humanities and when he publish an article which contains photos sometimes is asked by the journal with whom is publishing to provide written authorizations from the museums in which the pictured objects are: so yes, it can happen that authorizations are required, and this can of course cause problems -sometimes museums doesn’t reply or it’s impossible to contact them!

Different issue

Yes, this is a problem, but of a different kind: as you said, “Freedom of panorama is the possibility to make photos, videos or paintings of buildings or monuments permanently located on public spaces”; freedom of panorama (usually) do not apply to indoor spaces, like museums.

(Anyway, I always find absurd when museum or cultural institutions try to restrict the spreading of knowledge…)

#w00t? had noooo idea

Do you know what the reasoning is or how this situation came into being? How bizarre!

Well, the inability of taking photos of copyrighted works placed in public spaces is not something you have to specifically plan, it’s what happen when you do not explicitly provide for freedom of panorama. Maybe in some countries simply who wrote the law didn’t think about it; anyway, in Italy there seems to be the (odd) underlying idea that the state should try to raise some money by selling these rights (however, this depends more on other laws than on simple copyright and absence of freedom of panorama). Why? I don’t know. Maybe chronic lack of funds, or misunderstanding what the commons are.