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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Freedom of panorama: would it hurt architects? Survey among Italian-based architects says NO

Contemporary architecture in Rome:
the stunning MAXXI museum by Zaha Hadid
The (until fairly recently little-known) copyright exception in Article 5(3)(h) of the InfoSoc Directive allowing Member States to authorize the "use of works, such as works of architecture or sculpture, made to be located permanently in public places", also known as freedom of panorama, has been subject to increasingly frequent (and heated) discussion over the past few years.

Freedom of panorama: from niche to ubiquitous?

At the EU level, in her report MEP Julia Reda proposed to make the exception mandatory for all Member States to have. At the moment, however, there seems to be no real discussion around this issue, nor does it seem that the EU Commission intends to propose legislation in this sense.

At the national levels legislatures and courts have been busy addressing this area of copyright [a handy overview of national approaches (both at the EU and non-EU levels) to freedom of panorama is available here].

Examples of the former include the recent initiatives in Belgium [Article XI.190(2/1°) of the Code de Droit Économique, introduced in 2015] and France [Article L 122-5 No 11 of the Code de la propriété intellectuelle, introduced in 2016 - here], which have resulted in the adoption of specific exceptions allowing freedom of panorama. 

An example of the latter is the (rather) controversial 2016 decision of the Swedish Supreme Court [here] that arguably interpreted narrowly the relevant exception in section 24(1) of the Swedish Copyright Act. The decision was applied earlier this year by the Swedish Patent and Market Court.

As an EU Member State, Italy occupies a relatively peculiar position. While formally Italian copyright law does not envisage an exception allowing freedom of panorama, a certain freedom is nonetheless recognized by means of other provisions [here]

As Italy also expressly includes works of architecture among protectable subject-matter, it is the perfect candidate to see how those who would be harmed by the introduction of a specific exception allowing freedom of panorama would react to the introduction of a specific exception. 

Santiago Calatrava's Ponte
della Costituzione
in Venice
ThAssociazione Wikimedia Italia survey

This is indeed what the Associazione Wikimedia Italia sought to discover earlier this year, when it conducted a survey among architects based in different parts of Italy, obtaining over 600 responses.

The results [available hereare very interesting.

First, the facts: only one respondent stated to have every received payment for a photograph taken of their work. 

More generally, over 70% of those surveyed stated that they are not aware that permission is required to make reproductions of works of architecture, sculptures et sim permanently located on public display. Nearly 60% thinks that it would not be reasonably possible for, eg, a photographer to locate and contact relevant rightholders to seek permission. 

Associazione Wikimedia Italia also asked respondents whether they agreed with a freedom of panorama provision, described as following: the ability to take a photo of a work of yours visible from the public street, distribute it with a free license and add it to a Wikipedia article, all without your permission. 11.5 % of the respondents believed this to be a bad thing for them or in general, while 68.6 % declared it to be a good thing and around 20 % gave a more nuanced response, generally stressing that the photographer should if possible state the provenance and name the architect/author.

Conclusion

It would be interesting to see if the results of the survey changed in different Member States. Overall, however, it appears that - at least in Italy - architects may be more concerned about attribution of the work, rather than licensing use upon payment of a fee.

The survey results also prompt a broader reflection on the goals pursued by certain policy initiatives and whether they would be really beneficial to their ... beneficiaries. In this sense, a fairly immediate connection is with the discussion currently being undertaken around the introduction of an EU press publishers' right, further to somewhat similar initiatives in Germany and Spain. Would the beneficiaries of this new neightbouring right (if adopted) uncontroversially benefit from it? 

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