What’s Behind The Attack On EU’s Outdoor Photography? The Usual Copyright Maximalism And Anti-Americanism

Last week, Tim Cushing explained that one of the bad outcomes of the recent European Parliament committee vote on Julia Reda’s copyright reform report was that it recommended limiting freedom of panorama — the ability to take pictures and make videos of public objects — to non-commercial use. As Techdirt readers know, in the digital age, it is very hard to draw a clear distinction between commercial and non-commercial contexts online, which makes any kind of limitation to non-commercial use problematic. The person responsible for introducing the amendment to Reda’s report, Jean-Marie Cavada, has written a blog post about the freedom of panorama issue (original in French), and it gives us some interesting insights into his thinking here:

The fight which is being led today by Ms. Reda, in the guise of defending free access to the works that are in the public domain [public objects] on behalf of users, is actually one conducted above all to allow US monopolies such as Facebook, or Wikimedia, to avoid the payment of fees to the creators.

Yes, it’s all about those evil American companies again, refusing to pay when somebody dares to post a holiday picture on their Facebook page. Because, as the copyright maximalists keep on reminding us, every single use of every single owned object must be licensed every single time, otherwise civilization — specifically European civilization — will come crashing down.

But whatever people might think about Facebook, it’s hard to see Wikipedia/Wikimedia as a “US monopoly” avoiding payment, as Cavada calls it. Indeed, Cavada goes on to contradict himself, writing:

this structure is well aware that the use of works on Wikimedia pages is not questioned by the authors, even in countries where there is no [freedom of] panorama exception.

Well, if it’s not questioned, why is he using Wikipedia as an example of an evil “US monopoly” that wants to avoid paying licensing fees? Or does he mean that authors don’t have a problem with Wikipedia using photos of landscapes with their works visible provided they are paid? Which of course ignores the fact that Wikipedia is not a company, and can’t afford to pay licensing fees. Or, there again, is he perhaps advocating that Wikipedia just ignore the law, and use the pictures anyway?

Altogether, this confused post is a perfect demonstration of why people who don’t understand a technology should not be allowed to make laws about it.

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