Freedom of Panorama

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English Wikipedia:

Freedom of panorama (FOP) is an exception to the copyright laws of various jurisdictions that permits taking photographs and video footage and creating other images (such as paintings) of buildings and sometimes sculptures and other art works which are permanently located in a public place, without infringing on any copyright that may otherwise subsist in such works, and the publishing of such images. Panorama freedom statutes or case law limit the right of the copyright owner to take action for breach of copyright against the creators and distributors of such images. It is an exception to the normal rule that the copyright owner has the exclusive right to authorize the creation and distribution of derivative works. The phrase is derived from the German term Panoramafreiheit (“panorama freedom”).

Also see Wikimedia Commons for a practical jurisidiction-by-jurisdiction guide.

I haven’t paid very close attention to FOP as I’m not aware that its restriction has generated huge rents for copyright holders (references wanted). But, I should:

  • Others’ control over what one can do with what one perceives and records in public seems like a WPIO progression indicator.
  • As with other copyright exceptions and limitations, maximalism approaches copyright abolition. FOP is narrowly construed these days. FOP maximalism would demand that if you perceive it, you are free to do anything with it. Your mind must not be subject to any private owners. Subjects to conceptually extend FOP soon include advertising and political speech.
  • FOP restrictions directly harm commons-based knowledge production, both conceptually (cutting off commons production from cultural relevance and thus limiting its competitiveness) and concretely, limiting the images that can be used to improve Wikimedia projects.

The third point has led Wikimedians to oppose new FOP restrictions and lobby for increased FOP:

Freedom of panorama is essential for Wikipedia’s editors to document the world. Editors illustrate articles with images from Wikimedia Commons including many pictures of buildings and art in public spaces. Sharing images of public spaces is valuable both as a contemporary educational resource and as a primary source for future generations of historians and sociologists. These images provide access to knowledge for European citizens and people throughout the world. This includes students studying architecture or art, tourists preparing for their upcoming travel to foreign country, and citizens who want to experience their cultural heritage but lack the money to travel.

Belgium is about to implement improved FOP. One far-seeing congratulatory comment:

Wikimedians have been great in averting huge legislative disasters in the past, now it has shown to be capable of achieving positive change as well.

Yes, let’s maximize that: concentrated commons interests demanding and achieving commons-favoring reform.