back to article Wikipedia jumps aboard the bogus 'freedom of panorama' bandwagon

Wikipedia has launched another anti-copyright campaign – but it's one that experts say is bogus and misleading. Thousands of pages on the site are now plastered with an appeal to "Save the Freedom of Panorama", a crusade minted by copyright activist and Europe's only Pirate Party MEP, Julia Reda. But Wikipedia users should …

  1. TeeCee Gold badge

    Oh yes!

    The European Parliament cannot actually write legislation..

    An important point that cannot be made often enough.

    I can't help thinking that the purchase of a rubber stamp with the word "APPROVED" on it and a red ink pad could save the EU a good few million EUR each year. It'd do the same job equally as well as the current setup and they could even buy two, to have one in Brussels and one in Strasbourg, to save the cost of moving it back and forth every month.

    They'd lose the figleaf of democracy, but it wouldn't actually change anything in practice as all the actual power is held by the Politburo Commission who are appointed rather than elected anyway.

    1. c3o

      Re: Oh yes!

      They can't write, but they can amend and veto/kill legislation.

      Remember ACTA? The Parliament is way too weak no doubt, but certainly more than a figleaf.

    2. Free Information

      Freedom to exploit

      Yes it is a bogus. But this journalist doesn't completely get it either.

      The reality is, that "Freedom of Panorama", means freedom to sell and profit from these pictures and media. This is the whole issue. The devil is in the detail.

      The word "Freedom" sounds so nice and good, so who can possibly be against that? Wikipedia has been playing a well-known game based on superficial emotions related to this very word. Just like so many self-proclaimed "Liberals" across the world. What they really mean by the word "Freedom", is "Freedom to exploit". And that is why this freedom is not so easy to uphold.

      There is and has always been freedom to take pictures of just about everything, if national security or personal issues does not get in the way of course. But when you also wants freedom to sell and profit from these images, it's a whole and completely different matter. If WP would sign a declaration that the media was not-for-profit only, then everything would be fine and there would be no case.

      So why doesn't WP declare the media to be not-for-profit-only or at least allow uploaders at WikiCommons to declare images THEY created to be not-for-profit-only? We can all guess here, but rumor has it, that WP is about to turn the voluntary media uploads from thousands of unpaid users (read:blind idealists) into a money machine in the near future. Probably under cover of fund raising or other good causes. Wait and see ...

  2. Mark 78

    brilliant campaign strategy


    In a few weeks, when something that wasn't going to happen is formally ruled out, campaigners will congratulate themselves on "a successful campaign".


    Also known as "The Euro Sausage" for those who remember Yes Minister.

  3. h4rm0ny

    2 minutes 21, there is false information. Jimmy Wales states that people aren't worried about strangers looking them up and finding old and regrettable things about them, they're worried about friends and family finding it out, and that these people will already know it.

    Both parts of this are incorrect. As a person, what would concern me IS that something I did over a decade ago is going to come up every time I meet a stranger, whether that is a job interview, a new acquaintance, a date, whatever. Secondly, we make new friends all the time (at least most of us do) so again, they may not know what we were arrested for twelve years ago or whatever.

    The issue, in a nutshell, is that up until now, the damage to how people see you of something diminished over time. It was possible to move on, rebuild your life or get past that.

    With the popular indexing of search engines, that changes. You go for a job interview, start dating someone, try to make a friend and suddenly, just through typing in your name, they know that you were raped six years ago, or were arrested for assault, or that your partner died in an accident, or you programmed in Visual Basic or anything. And these things never go away - no matter how long ago, they are the first thing anyone knows about you defining the impression before you even arrive for your interview or whatever.

    Regardless of one's position on this, what Jimmy Wales claimed in that interview is untrue. People ARE concerned about strangers knowing all these details about them and it is NOT the case that everyone in your social circle will already know something.

    And anyone claiming that knowledge of this kind doesn't impact your life through how people treat you, plainly is familiar with a different type of human being than the species I live amongst.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      He's also wrong when he says Google is in the position of being "judge and jury". It isn't at all. That wasn't challenged either.

    2. Gregory Kohs

      Get used to it -- Jimbo lying

      Some of us are very accustomed to Jimmy Wales telling half-truths and untruths when he gets on a rail about something. Indeed, at some point, his misappropriation is going to be so trademark, he's going to be laughed off as the "Joe Isuzu" of the 21st century.

  4. Mark 78

    Brilliant Campaign Strategy


    In a few weeks, when something that wasn't going to happen is formally ruled out, campaigners will congratulate themselves on "a successful campaign".


    Also known as "The Euro Sausage" for those who remember Yes Minister

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: Brilliant Campaign Strategy

      Or who remember your last post on this. ;)

  5. Gordon 10

    I glad I saw this

    Got a petition about this yesterday and was wondering if to take it seriously.

    Now I know I dont have to :)

    1. Mike Taylor

      Re: I glad I saw this

      I unsubscribed from both Change and 38voices when I got mine. If I could have unsubscribed from a topic / topics when I could do so, then I would, as usually I'm at least critically interested. The increasingly hysterical subject lines / text visible in emails - particular in relation to GM / food tech - has finally got to me.

  6. Michael M

    EU snipers

    Mr Orlowski is aligning himself with Civil War General John Sedgwick's last words: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance". Never assume terrible laws will not pass, protest them just the same.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: EU snipers

      > Never assume terrible laws will not pass, protest them just the same.


      Who, at the turn of the previous century would ever have guessed that copyright would extend, in some quarters, to the death of the author plus 70 years: almost 3/4 of a century after the author has long gone? They would have thought it unthinkable.

      As an unwitting public, we are seeing ever gradual erosion of civil liberty at such a relatively slow rate, we hardly notice it happening until it is way too late.

      What our grandparents would think impossible, is now commonplace and unquestioned and it took just 2 generations.

      1. Hollerith 1

        Re: EU snipers

        An erosion of civil rights because it takes 70 years after the death of the author to use it for free? This is the worst crime against civil liberty? I do personally think 70 years was too long, but it was, previously, 50 years (from memory). The pious intention was to let the widow of an author (and I use these words deliberately) and/or his children, to be supported by his creations after his death. In reality, it allows the publisher to keep making exclusive profits for 70 years. But then it stops. Then it is free to the world. The fact that you will have to wait 70 years post-death to get Neil Gaiman's works for free is simply a long delay. You might be losing out, but future generations will not.

        1. Diliff

          Re: EU snipers

          Don't worry about economics and the wealth divide. Don't worry about nuclear waste. Don't worry about the environment. You're screwing things up for your generation and a great many number of generations to come, but don't worry, EVENTUALLY everything will be fine. Think about the big picture! Stop being so selfish!

          The point is, we shouldn't just accept things as they are because that's how it is and it will eventually work itself out. We should actually have laws that reflect the best interests of mankind both in the future and now. Some things shouldn't wait. If we can identify that mankind isn't best served by an estate retaining copyright for 70 years after death (and I think it's fairly clear we have), then we should change it!

          Neil Gaiman is a bad example anyway. It's trivially easy and relatively cheap to buy his books even after death. The point is, we have thousands (probably millions) of potentially orphaned photos out there. Most of them are probably just holiday snaps and of no interest to anyone else, but many of them are of historically interesting events, and snapshots of a time that we would like to learn about. We can't publish many of them because the author is no longer identifiable and therefore we can't gain permission. Or the author is identified, but dead, and by law, the estate of a death person is legally obliged to maximise returns, so there's little chance of the estate choosing to release the photos to the public domain, particularly if the deceased was a famous photographer. The irony is that it's easier for photos to be released into the public domain while the photographer was alive than when he or she has been dead for 60 years. Such is the mess that is our current copyright situation.

    2. Ketlan

      Re: EU snipers

      'Civil War General John Sedgwick's last words: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance".'

      I thought Sedgwick's last words were actually: "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist---".

    3. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: EU snipers

      Please see the response to JH123 and then express the threat level as a probability.

      (It died today anyway).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounded dodgy from the start

    Read some of the early discussion on Wikipedia and thought to myself that the idea of the EU harmonising on restricting seemed unlikely.

  8. johnnybee

    It's a bit like starting a fire, then accepting a medal for bravely putting it out.

    No, it's more like setting a bale of straw on fire on a deserted lake island, rowing to the shore, going to the nearest straw hut shouting, "The straw is on fire!" then waiting for the island fire to die out, before claiming you've sorted it. And THEN accepting a medal for saving the hut.

  9. JH123

    A stitch in time

    Hi Andrew,

    I read what you're saying but I think you're wrong.

    The Cavada text was strongly pushed by the French copyright collecting society ADAGP, as a visit to their website will confirm. (Not "museums and galleries", because galleries and museums typically don't own the copyright of what they show).

    ADAGP reckons that in France the copyright fees on buildings and public sculptures are worth in the region of 3 to 6 million Euros a year net. As the society retains approximately 25% of the gross of copyright licenses that it administers, freedom of panorama would represent a loss to ADAGP itself of between 1 and 2 million Euros a year income.

    However, the society also has its eyes on bigger things, as it was presenting in Brussels this morning, namely to force through with EU help an agreement with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, Picasa and others similar to the arrangements that Google has with music labels, to acknowledge and pay out for copyrights in user-taken images of buildings and sculptures uploaded to the sites (finding ways to extract money from rich American companies being an idea that plays especially well in Brussels).

    ADAGP's lobbying was skilful and effective, as measured by the conviction with which not just Cavada but also MEPs like Mary Honeyball (on the BBC2 Daily Politics last week) or the Maltese MEP Therese Comodini-Cachia were repeating its lines, indeed by the fact that it had managed to win over all the MEPs from both the centre-right EPP and the centre-left S&D on the committee -- including all their MEPs like Honeyball and Commodini and the Czechs and the Germans and the Austrians from countries that currently *have* freedom of panorama.

    And that was just in the parliament, where we can see what's going on. Who knows what they were achieving in the Commisson with the likes of Oettinger?

    Yes, that would still have left the member states. But member states treat issues like this like poker chips, adamant that they won't compromise and won't compromise -- until they find something they want to trade their chip in for. So forgive me if I don't find reliance on member states to do the right thing that reassuring.

    Bottom line:

    Was this the last ditch? No.

    Was this the right moment to stop this in its tracks, and make sure it got no further? Absolutely.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: A stitch in time

      Thanks, but you don't really challenge the proposition that it's a bogus scare that won't be implemented, which is fairly critical context needed to understand this story.

      I know some people will want it, Europe has professional copyright bureaucrats who would love to start another society or four. But you've missed two important things.

      One, the amendment wouldn't be on the table if the rapporteur hadn't done such a bad report. One things leads to another.

      Two, these are the stages that would need to happen to lose the Panorama exception.

      1.The European Council writes exactly the same amendment. Council members vote on it. Since most of its members have a Panorama exception they would vote against it. It dies.

      2. But assuming it doesn't, it goes to Parliament, where MEPs are from countries that have a Panorama exception and don't want it. They vote, it dies.

      3. But assuming it's still alive, it has to be implemented in all the countries in Europe that have a Panorama exception. Which is most of them. They have an exception because it's a good idea. So it never gets into legislation. Because if it goes to each Parliament, it dies.

      It was never a danger to either photographers or Wikipedia. Oettinger ruled out any prospect of 1) today.

  10. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Freedom of Panorama?


    Freedom of Horizon!

    Freedom of WORLD IN ACTION!



    <Yeah, the tartan one>

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Newton's Third

    God, I hate it when people "quote" Newton's Third Law of Motion in support of an argument in a totally unrelated field. I used to think that it was simply lazy and dishonest but have come around more and more to the opinion that there's an awful lot of people out there that actually believe it is a universal law that applies to sociology, economics and just about everything else instead of being a specific law in the field of dynamics/mechanics.

    I'm sure that Andrew isn't that stupid, so I'll just attribute his use of it to laziness.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Newton's Third

      I agree with you actually, it is overused.

      It's a figure of speech, though, that applies here. The doofus Amendment wouldn't have been tacked on to the rapporteur's report if the rapporteur hadn't made a doofus suggestion. That's because she doesn't understand the framework at all, she doesn't understand why people need copyright, and why we have exceptions.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Newton's Third

        > That's because she doesn't understand the framework at all, she doesn't understand why people need copyright, and why we have exceptions.

        You may disagree with her views but to argue against someone simply that they don't understand the issues is one of the poorest stances to take on any issue. Perhaps she does understand, but comes to a different conclusion.

        One of the interesting points about the whole copyright issue is that there is no right answer. There is no absolute factual basis to support either point of view. It's like taxation and economics where many people have the staunchest of beliefs and dogma.

        Since absence of copyright law has not been tested in modern times in any kind of environment that provides equivalency, we can hardly argue that it has been tried and been found lacking.

  12. adrianww


    ...the thing that makes me most worried that something like this idiocy may ultimately make it into EU legislation in some shape or form is, in large part, the absolute certainty with which El Reg's redoubtable Mr Orlowski says it can't happen. Not that I necessarily disbelieve everything he says, but I've never been convinced that he knows as much about things as he thinks he does.

    Anyway, as far as this particular issue is concerned, while I'm no fan of self-aggrandizing Wiki-anything types, I've seen enough ill-thought-out and utterly cocked-up legislation coming from the EU or from individual European governments (not least our own in the UK) that I can easily imagine some bunch of assorted political dimwits picking up this dog's breakfast of an idea and actually trying to run with it. On that basis, I'm prepared to stick my name on the petition and possibly even badger my MP/MEP just on principle. Conversely, if Mr O turns out to be right in this case, then that is a fine and good thing and I shall sleep sounder in my bed.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Patent has a maximum of 20 years.

    Copyright a maximum of a lifetime+70 years.

    Seems really out of balance to me. Why does an artists doodle have more value than invention?

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