It would seem with recent events, artistic freedom is being threatened on a near-daily basis; firstly with a copyright change that has art publishers deeply disturbed due to the new regulation making copyright breach in Britain a criminal, rather than a civil offence – suggesting that we will now send art editors, and publishers to jail – with Europe leading the way in what amounts to an attack on the viability of publishers and art-related businesses to work with artists and estates on the rights of the reproduction of images, as well as threatening artists by criminalising appropriation when it is considered a copyright violation. This new British copyright law goes into effect in 2020, and now we have another copyright issue on the horizon – quite literally it would seem.
Even an art professional likes to take the odd holiday snap and post it on their social media page, perhaps one of the Eiffel Tower? But if you happened to take that picture at night, you may be surprised to know that according to French law, your rights to use those images are limited, as the illumination of the Eiffel Tower is considered to be a separate artistic installation!
The law is called freedom of panorama; a copyright restriction making it illegal to publish pictures without proper authorisation. Freedom of panorama is the unrestricted right to use photographs of public spaces, without infringing the rights of the architect or the visual artist. Most European Union countries enjoy full freedom of panorama. However, some European countries, such as Belgium and France, do not have this particular freedom and images of buildings and panoramas are restricted under copyright law. Now alarmingly it seems that this particular freedom – held by the majority across Europe – might change in the near future.
The European parliament is currently considering copyright reforms, including changes to this copyright freedom – it is actually considering its restriction throughout all EU states. According to The Guardian, a proposed amendment to a report which will be the basis of a recommendation to the legislative body, the European Commission, states that the right to freely use images of works permanently located in public spaces would always be subject to prior authorisation. Unless the legal affairs committee rejects the proposal, hundreds of thousands of images on Wikipedia for instance, would be subject to copyright restrictions and would face the risk of being removed. This would also effect countless publications, and millions of published images.
It would mean that photojournalists would need to seek countless permissions instead of simply capturing that important photograph. Artlyst believes that the UK creative industry must not be encumbered with this extreme and unimaginable level of bureaucracy, that would forever damage the visual culture of our own societies in the UK and across Europe, through yet another cynical attempt at producing a new revenue stream to the detriment of the majority. It seems that we are heading toward ever-more extreme restrictions in terms of our visual cultural freedom.
How can artists, photographers, and new publishing businesses hope to survive under the pressure of such regulations?