Campaign launched against ‘barking’ European plan to censor photos of buildings

‘Amateur Photographer’ (AP) is at the forefront of a campaign against controversial European plans to restrict photography of public buildings which threaten to censor millions of amateur and professional photos.

There are growing fears that proposed changes to European copyright law will require photographers to obtain permission before publishing pictures of tourist attractions such as the London Eye.

AP has backed an open letter, drawn up by Wikipedia operator Wikimedia and sent to The Times newspaper, which has been signed by organisations including the Bureau of Freelance Photographers and the British Photographic Council.

Editor Nigel Atherton said: ‘This unnecessary attack on personal liberty, designed to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, will fundamentally transform photography in public places.

‘It will destroy the century old tradition of reportage and street photography that’s provided us with such a rich and valuable visual history of our collective past.

He added: ‘Moreover, it’ll make it almost impossible for anyone to take and publish photos that include buildings and landmarks, which will do irreparable damage to both the hobby and profession of photography.

‘It’s a vindictive attack on our individual freedom to enjoy public spaces, and on the free and open distribution of information – and in the age of Google Street View it’s completely pointless.’

Stevie Benton, head of external relations at Wikimedia UK, told AP that Wikipedia would be forced to remove an estimated 40,000 images from its website if the European Parliament votes through the law.

Benton fears other sites, including Facebook, Flickr and Twitter, would be deemed ‘commercial’ – meaning users would need prior permission before posting photos of iconic buildings such as the Shard.

‘It’s a mess… We are writing a letter to MEPs today,’ said Benton who explained that 15 countries would be hit including the UK, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Greece.

‘We just wouldn’t be able to use images of European public spaces not covered by Freedom of Panorama – even if the Shard is in the background of holiday snaps.’

Charles Swan, an intellectual property rights lawyer and a director at the Association of Photographers, told AP: ‘I just can’t believe this is going to happen. The feeling against this is so strong. I think it unites the whole country.’

What is ‘commercial use’Campaigners warn that images posted on websites such as Facebook may be deemed commercial, even if tourist-style snapshots taken by non-professionals.

Benton said: ‘If I was to take an image of the Shard today [that would be acceptable]. But in a month’s time, even on my own blog, with Google Adwords [targeted adverts placed when people search for related phrases], it will be considered to be a commercial website.’

‘If you’re just an amateur photographer and put your photos on Flickr or Facebook, or wherever, I can’t see how that could be commercial, just because [they are] commercial operations…