Is Photographing London Going To Be Banned By The EU?

Andy Thornley
By Andy Thornley Last edited 38 months ago
Is Photographing London Going To Be Banned By The EU?

St Paul's Cathedral blacked out
The view of St Paul's we'd have to get used to? Image altered from an original by Mark Cornick from the Londonist Flickr Pool

A campaign has been launched to protect the freedom to photograph city panoramas such as the skyline of London, ahead of an EU Parliament vote on copyright. Campaigners claim this vote could mean it will be illegal to take photos of London's iconic skyline.

So what actually is the EU Parliament going to vote on?

At the end of 2014, the European Parliament appointed a Rapporteur — an MEP tasked with writing a report on a particular topic — to look at harmonising copyright law across Europe. The EU, being a huge fan of cross-border business, is understandably quite big on harmonisation as it makes trading through different EU member states much easier.

The MEP who was asked to write the report is the Parliament’s sole Pirate Party MEP, a German called Julia Reda. Currently, France and Belgium are the only EU member states which copyrights architectural design and the capturing of commercial images of it.

Her report is due to be voted on in the EU parliament on 9 July and the section causing most concern is an amendment added by the EU Legal Affairs Committee that would ban the taking of photographs of buildings as the designs and architecture of these would be commercially copyrighted. The amendment in question:

Considers that the commercial use of photographs, video footage or other images of works which are permanently located in physical public places should always be subject to prior authorisation from the authors or any proxy acting for them.

This also has the ability to also spill over in to the consumer space as the fine-print of Facebook’s terms and conditions could mean you may need to seek out if the subject of your photograph is copyrighted. A right old ball-ache if you take a city-break and want to share your pics after your holidays.

But before you make your placards and head over to St Pancras Eurostar terminal, there is one important point to consider; although they’ll be voting on the report, the EU Parliament can’t actually write legislation. European laws (called Directives) are written by the EU Commission, upon which the EU Parliament and Council of Ministers (domestic Governmental representatives of EU member states) negotiate on in a process called a trialogue.

Despite the fact the vote on Thursday won’t be legally binding, it may well be influential. The Commission is due to look at harmonising copyright law across the EU later on in the year and the result of the vote shows the appetite of the Parliament when it boils down to a trialogue.

If you feel strongly about this, the campaign group Photographer Not a Terrorist is rallying the troops to campaign to influence MEPs to strike out the amendment.

What are your favourite views of London? How would you feel if they were lost? Add your comments below.

Last Updated 06 July 2015