EU copyright reform has been delayed (once again) until September to allow the European Commission to ask for input on two questions it can’t decide on:

  1. Freedom of Panorama: Should you be allowed to take and use photos of public space everywhere in the EU without the risk of you or your photo sharing app being charged royalties?
  2. Extra copyright for publishers: After attempts at forcing Google News to pay newspapers for linking to their websites backfired in Germany and Spain, publishers have doubled down: The idea of an “ancillary copyright” is back in a broader and badder version. Should publishers get extra control over how content is linked to and displayed on the web?

Below, I’ll explain both issues in detail.

Answer the consultation now

This is a form by the Copyright4Creativity alliance which explains all questions. Alternatively, use the neural, official EU interface.
You can choose whether to respond on both topics or just one.
Time required: 10 minutes
Deadline: June 11 – but do it today!


Freedom of Panorama

Should everyone be allowed to take and freely use photos of public space? Tweet this!

Status Quo:

Architecture and artworks in public space (e.g. statues and murals) are copyrighted – until 70 years after their creators’ deaths. In half of the member states, “freedom of panorama” copyright exceptions allow you to take and freely use images/recordings of public space without having to think twice. In the other half (including France and Belgium), you or the platform you publish such photos on may need to research who owns the rights, seek permission or be subject to fines.

Famous examples of buildings you can’t take photos of without stopping to think include the Eiffel tower at night (it’s the light show that is copyrighted), the Little Mermaid statue in Denmark or the buildings of the European institutions in Brussels themselves.

Prompted by the 555,223 people and multiple trade associations of creatives who joined my fight to extend the freedom to photograph public space to all of Europe last year, the Commission wants to hear from you how important this issue is.

How it affects you:

  • Creative jobs rely on freedom of panorama: If you are a street or press photographer or a documentary filmmaker, you’re probably using copyrighted artwork in public places in your work.
  • The legality of your holiday photos may be questionable: When you snap a photo and upload it to a service like Facebook or Instagram, you agree to grant them the rights for commercial use of the photo (namely showing it on your profile on their ad-supported platforms). In countries without freedom of panorama, this right is not yours to grant.
  • Websites you use are poorer without freedom of panorama: Wikipedia is unable to use photos of many buildings to accompany their articles in the EU countries that lack this freedom.

Essential questions:

  • Q1 – Problems: The consultation asks whether you’ve run into problems. Even if you haven’t ever been contacted by an angry rightsholder, consider the examples above: Uncertainty about which everyday actions are legal or not or having less access to pertinent information are also real problems.
  • Q3 – Your usage: If you’ve ever uploaded a photo of a building where you didn’t know for sure that the architect has been dead for 70 years, the correct answer to this question is “Yes, on the basis of an exception”.
  • Q5/6 – Commercial or non-commercial? All of the examples given above would still affect you if freedom of panorama were only allowed for “non-commercial use”: Documentary films are commercial uses, Instagram is a commercial platform, and Wikipedia can only use images that are cleared for commercial use (while they themselves are non-commercial, it is their policy to only publish information that is free for any kind of use, including commercial).

Answer the consultation now – or read on about its second topic:


Extra copyright for publishers

Should publishers get extra copyrights that allow them to control the way we consume news online?Tweet this!

Status Quo:

In the internet age, people find and consume news (and other content) in many different ways, such as through social networks or via aggregators – to say nothing of the explosive growth of self-published content. As a result, traditional publishers have lost some of their control over how people consume information, and they are lobbying hard to regain it.

In Germany and Spain, publishers convinced lawmakers to try to force Google News to pay for the privilege of sending traffic to their sites. The laws backfired, providing not a single additional cent to publishers (let alone journalists) as aggregators shut down or received free licenses from publishers faced with drops in their website traffic. Instead, calling the freedom to link into question resulted in limiting readers’ choices and discouraging startups from competing with Google and working on innovative ways to keep people informed.

That didn’t stop Commissioner Oettinger from considering introducing this failed idea at the EU level – and ignoring all counterarguments. Last year, I defeated multiple attempts to add this plan to my copyright report. I assembled a coalition of 83 MEPs urging the Commission to drop the plans. Even some publishers cautioned that they would be affected negatively, not positively. On my initiative, the European Parliament warned “against creating … barriers to market entry for online services by introducing new obligations to cross-subsidise particular legacy business models”. But publishers have not given up.

At the same time, there’s an ongoing legal fight between publishers and authors: When you buy a copying machine, the price includes a levy to a collecting society, intended to reimburse rightholders for a theoretical loss of income your potential copying activities will supposedly cause. In a recent ruling, the courts called into question whether publishers have a right to a share of that money as they currently receive, or whether it should all go to authors. Obviously, publishers are not amused.

The extra copyright they are demanding – now dressed up as “neighbouring right for publishers” – would serve as a powerful weapon in both fights: To achieve greater control over how content is shared on the web and to claim a share of collective licensing incomes.

It’s lipstick on the “link tax” pig, and an attempt to use new laws to sustain old business models and fight off innovation. It runs counter to the overwhelming message of the last copyright consultation: We must make copyright simpler and more understandable to laypeople, not even more complex and far-reaching.

How it affects you:

  • How you find, read and share articles today may be called into question: Aggregators like Google News or Rivva, apps that combine multiple sources like Flipboard or Apple News, optimized “reader views” in browsers, “read later” services and ad blockers, sharing links on social networks – all of these may increasingly require the prior agreement of publishers or licensing deals. Your actions on these services may become legally questionable and/or these services unavailable or more expensive to you.
  • There will be less innovation in news technology if licensing costs and legal risks discourage startups and new methods of keeping people informed.
  • There may be less diversity if lesser-known publishers cannot rely on aggregators to reach new audiences and compete with the big players on a level playing field.
  • Consumer electronics may get more expensive if publishers insist on a share of the copyright levies but also make true on their claim that a new neighbouring right would not reduce authors’ remuneration.
  • Libraries may be limited in their ability to provide customized reading lists to their patrons that include extracts from articles.
  • Open access to scientific research could be at risk if these rights also apply to scientific publishers, interfering with existing open access agreements, like the right authors have in some countries to re-publish their own articles on their own websites freely.

Essential questions:

  • The first 4 questions are aimed at publishers, you can answer them “not relevant”.
  • Q5–14 have two components:
    • Impact on stakeholders: Estimate the impact on authors, other rightholders, researchers/educational institutions, service providers and consumers.
    • Press publishers or all publishers? The first three consequences mentioned above apply specifically to press publishers, the latter ones especially if this right is extended to all publishers. Either way, I expect the impact to be negative.
  • Q15 – How is ancillary copyright affecting you? If you live in Germany or Spain, this is where you can tell the Commission your view on the results of their snippet fee laws.

Answer the consultation now

Please clap share

We got the European Commission to listen on these two important elements of copyright reform. Now our response needs to be loud – it will directly impact the proposal that we expect to come out in September. All of us will be affected by these laws. Please take the time to fill out the consultation and then spread the word!

The EU wants your input: Should public space be royalty free? Should publishers get more control over the internet? Tweet this!

To the extent possible under law, the creator has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.


  1. 1

    I wonder if every reconstruction of a building that changes its exterior would create new panorama copyright?

  2. 2
    Felix Pahlow

    The time required of 10 minutes is a very optimistic estimate. If you’re going to answer the questions in detail, almost an hour is required.

  3. 3

    Get out now

    • Christopher Clay

      Without the EU, we would have 28 differing regulations on such everyday topics. Every time you cross a border (which would become harder again), you would need to read up on whether or not, for example, you may take and share photos. Harmonising such rights is a very good argument in favor of European integration.

      • Only if they are harmonised in the right direction. Otherwise, a lack of harmonisation would be preferable.

  4. 4

    How is it in Germany? Is it OK to take panoramas or you have to pay like in France?

  5. 5

    I’m afraid I don’t understand half of the questions, as they aren’t asked or the regular citizen but for someone who has a direct interest in this field of knowledge. I do understand the the laws lately tend to criminalise otherwise regular law-abiding citizens and this happens mainly as a result of an industry preoccupied with profits alone, but how exactly one should respond to those questions there is a bit of a mystery.

    It’s not that difficult, one may argue, but this is certainly beyond the point – when the public is consulted about matters that are of great importance to its members, fearing to write down an answer as the wrong answer should never even occur to them in this context, it should be immediately clear – as it requires the public to do further reading to understand the points made there. This is a poorly conceived form and it’s seriously deterring the public from participating.

    What. Is. This. BS? “Would the creation of a neighbouring right limited to the press publishers have an impact on authors in the publishing sector (as above)?”

    My 0.2 cents for whoever created that survey.

    As for Julia’s page regarding that form: most of us here came to support your strategy, we already know you’re on our side and we absolutely appreciate the details, but this is the internet; I’ll avidly look for the tl;dr version and get disappointed when I can’t find it.

    Really, most of the stuff on this page is stuff we’ve been through for the past 2 years or more. “Open access to scientific research could be at risk” Checked!
    You’re selling vegetables to the gardener.

    1. What’s happening?
    2. How will I be affected in one case or another (3 ideas, one phrase; read more somewhere else)
    3. What do I need to do?
    4. What’s up with that f8544 up survey? Here’s what you can write if you want this* and here’s what to write if you want that*.

    My 0.002 cents. I’m rather poor.

  6. 6

    You should know That I initially came here through a Facebook link Of open media And I Normally Use Internet Explorer 11 and there is NO link available… All the places I need to click to start the questionnaire is just writhing with no actual links, I then copied the link of this webpage into Firefox and what do you know, ALL links are there. The only add-on I have on IE11 is AdBlock witch (I checked) is disabled So of All the websites I go, Seems that only selective ones are screwed with. Might be a good thing to verify this with external sources Because I smell the big player’s conspiracy here ;) Good day. Ohh And to the whiner that said it took an hour, JUST DO YOUR JOB protecting the net for god sake … If no one does it then these assholes will screw everything up and we won’t be allowed to sneeze without paying first …