You may have spotted a story in the news over the last few days about potential changes to European copyright law that could have an impact on what you can and can’t photograph when you head off on holiday. We thought we’d run through the proposed modifications because they could have an impact on what you can publish and print to canvas. While we’re at it, we’ll also run through a few other points relating to the snaps you might take on your next vacation. So, here we go…

What is freedom of panorama?

When it comes to photographing modern buildings and art and light installations, we are able to do so in the UK because of an exception to the European law called ‘the freedom of panorama’, which is also exercised in countries including Spain and Germany. Elsewhere, in countries such as France, you need express permission to photograph and publish photographs of such works. You can, for example, take photographs of the Eiffel Tower during the day but when it is lit up at night doing so would be a breach of copyright as the rights are owned by the attraction’s operating company.

Why might the rules change?

The rules may be changing as a result of a recent report authored by German MEP Julia Reda, who actually suggested that people should be more widely able to photograph and video artworks and buildings in public spaces. However, when she submitted her report last month the legal committee decided to add their own clause, which states: “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.”

We should point out that this may not become law but it if it did it could impact on the photographic activities of the humble holidaymaker. This is despite the rule clearly being aimed at professional photographers who might make money by publishing photographs or potentially selling prints on canvas. The issue is that if you decided to upload your photographs to social media you might find that you are in breach of copyright, because platforms such as Facebook and Instagram can be classed as commercial enterprises.

Other rules to remember when getting snappy

While there’s no requirement to ask permission to photograph someone if they are in a public place, we’d usually suggest you do so out of courtesy. If you take a photograph where people are identifiable and you plan to sell it you are likely to be asked to submit a waiver showing they have given you permission. If photographing them is incidental and their identity is not quite clear, this may not be necessary. The photographer of a snap is also important in copyright. Under UK law, if you were ask someone else to photograph you they would technically own the copyright, even if the shot was taken on your camera. This is of course unless you have agreed otherwise, though we estimate the number of people who take personal photographers with them on holiday to capture magic moments is potentially quite low. We always encourage people to make the most of their holiday photos – perhaps by transferring standout shots to canvas or entering competitions. If you do choose to enter your work into photography contests, do be aware that you might be required to sign over the copyright as part of the terms and conditions, so it’s always best to check!

Do you have any holidays to photographic hotspots planned for this summer? What do you think of the potential copyright changes? Leave your comments below or join the conversation over on Twitter @ParrotPrint.