Photography, Copyright and Freedom of Panorama

My husband and I share a home office and most afternoons we listen to the culture program on German radio. Usually I blend it out and concentrate on my writing, but yesterday something caught my ear. The announcer warned that a picture posted online (to Facebook, for example) could end up costing you even if you took with your own camera.

By now most of us are Internet savvy to know that posting someone else's copyrighted photo constitutes misuse. But photos that we snapped ourselves with our camera phone? Those are fair game, right? Not always. In fact, it depends on what (and who) we photograph.

Copyright law also varies by country, but in general, we are not allowed to take photos of copyrighted works such as murals, statues, artwork or even buildings and post them online. If you take a photo on a public street, you are potentially capturing hundreds of copyrighted images (and private people, who have their own protections when it comes to publishing photographs).

Is this photo of me under the Kuwaiti water towers protected under Freedom of Panorama?  I think so!


That's why a Freedom of Panorama exception was created. This means, in most cases, you cannot be held liable for a photo taken in or from a publicly accessible places. In the US, the current law is more narrow and only applies to buildings. That means you can take (and post) a photo of the Empire State Building from the street (but not an adjacent private building), but probably not the Gandhi statue in Union Square.

Since tourists take and post millions of such photos, in practice it is unlikely that you will be prosecuted for such offenses. But it is within the realm of possibility.

All this got me thinking about novels and the futuristic technology within. If there can be such complicated laws surrounding the use of digital photography, what laws might governments have to come up with to regulate teleportation or hovercrafts or lightsabers?  These laws might never come up in the course of the narrative, but it's no doubt a useful worldbuilding exercise to ponder the legal ramifications.

NOTE: I'm not a copyright expert, so take this post with a grain of salt and feel free to do your own research.


3 comments:

Claire M. Caterer said...

Sheesh! Is there to be no fun to photography anymore? I get it (I guess), but some of this seems a bit extreme. Waiting now for God to weigh in, prosecuting our photos of sunsets.

Lenore Appelhans said...

Ha! God just wants his cut. Make sure to tithe for your sunset photos.

residenceinnconventioncenterorlando said...

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