Commons:Freedom of panorama campaign

From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
Jump to navigation Jump to search



Unlike most countries, the United States does not recognize freedom of panorama (except for buildings), and since the WMF's servers are located in the United States, this potentially invalidates our ability to host any such images on Commons, even ones taken in countries that do recognize freedom of panorama. (See Commons:Village pump/Archive/2012/11#DMCA Take-Down.)

To solve this problem, we need to get the United States to legally recognize freedom of panorama. You may say this is a daunting task. Compiling the sum of human knowledge is also a daunting task, but we haven't let that stop us. When they said that SOPA was a done deal, we forged ahead anyway and crushed it with such decisiveness that we amazed ourselves. If we put our heads together and focus our energy on accomplishing something, we can actually do some amazing things.

With that in mind, let's use this page to start brainstorming ideas for how we can get freedom of panorama recognized in the United States (and eventually worldwide). We have the power, we just need to figure out how to use it!



Write a convincing rationale for why FoP is a good thing


A prerequisite for all other forms of action? 99of9 (talk) 06:46, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

A very good idea :) I imagine the most compelling reason is that it is technically illegal for people to take photographs of public sculptures without permission from the artist (as it is an unauthorized reproduction/derivative). Please correct me if I'm wrong. Kaldari (talk) 08:19, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
The issue here is that in many cases things can be done for non-commercial use and under a fair use claim, but are restricted for commercial use, which is what we want. So the case has to be, here's why allowing commercial FOP is good. cmadler (talk) 21:30, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Well, this guy might be a good living example of "promoting the progress of science and useful arts" by imposing restrictions on his publicly displayed works for which he was already paid... :-) — Mikhail Ryazanov (talk) 03:57, 15 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
commercial use issues predominate, because gatekeepers use a FUD strategy, including copyfraud, as seen in the Oldenburg case. FoP simplifies the rules, so we all know where we stand about the photographs we take. Slowking4 †@1₭ 16:45, 15 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]



One easy way for us to raise political awareness on this issue is to take advantage of our numbers and create an online petition at If we can get at least 25,000 people to sign it, the White House will issue a public response which will create some media coverage if nothing else. Kaldari (talk) 06:10, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Sadly, I doubt it would generate any media coverage (I base this on the lack of media coverage of earlier responses to other petitions), but it would be interesting to see the White House's response at least. Perhaps the reason these petitions don't get any media coverage is because the administration's position on their subjects is already well known. Powers (talk) 22:13, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Well, it might not get mainstream coverage, but I imagine places like Slashdot would pick it up. Regardless, I agree it would be interesting to see what the administration's position is, as an endorsement would be a useful tool for further lobbying. Kaldari (talk) 23:33, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

US chapters lobby Congress


Although the two US chapters (New York and DC) are 501c3 organizations, they do have the ability to spend a limited amount of money on political activities. The Israeli chapter had some success with this in Israel where they lobbied for the government to freely license government works. Kaldari (talk) 06:10, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

yes, this would be a natural for the dc chapter. maybe we need an "informational" capitol hill staff briefing. i had a blackout agenda here [1], but fop can go to the top of the list. Slowking4 †@1₭ 14:38, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
According to the grapevine, DC's organizational capacity is rather limited currently, so they might not be able to help that much. Kaldari (talk) 23:34, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
well, i was thinking small, with 5-10 people in 2 man teams; briefing 20 members in a day after a weekend. it's gonna be a long term project; just getting on the radar screen is a beginning. Slowking4 †@1₭ 16:13, 13 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Set-up an umbrella lobbying organization


We could join forces with photographers, civil libertarians, and other groups to form an informal online organization dedicated to pursuing freedom of panorama in the US. If the organization grew, it could eventually become a 527 organization. Kaldari (talk) 06:18, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

The entertainment industry might be interested in looser rules here. Having to "clear" artwork that is barely visible in the background of a film is apparently a major hassle. I've no idea how to contact "Hollywood", though. WhatamIdoing (talk) 21:26, 13 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
You'd want the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), of which former senator Chris Dodd is the current chairman/CEO. WMF + MPAA = strange bedfellows, but it could work. There have been issues, such as with the Portlandia statue. cmadler (talk) 14:36, 15 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Geotargeted CentralNotice banner


We could run a CentralNotice banner on Commons in the US encouraging people to contact their representatives on the issue. We could reuse the CongressLookup extension used during SOPA, although it would need to be updated. This is probably an action we could only take once (without annoying a lot of people), so we should probably save this for when there is actually a bill pending (which might not be for a while). Kaldari (talk) 06:14, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Identify allies (was: "Talk to Google")


Apparently they've encountered similar issues with their Street View service, so they may be a natural ally. Kaldari (talk) 08:21, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

I hope you don't mind me renaming this section, but I wanted a section to talk more broadly about identifying allies, and it made more sense to keep it together with the suggestion about Google. Once we have a position articulated, we would probably want to reach out to likeminded organizations, including Google, but also Creative Commons, the ALA, EFF, Students for Free Culture, and so on. Dominic (talk) 00:52, 15 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
As mentioned above, they'd be an odd ally for WMF, but the MPAA might get on board for this, and with their deep pockets they'd make a powerful ally. They've occasionally had FOP issues (e.g., Raymond Kaskey successfully sued Paramount over their intended inclusion of the Portlandia statue in Body of Evidence). cmadler (talk) 14:43, 15 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Identify educational audience for these photos


Do stats show where these photos are used? Are there places like Kenya or Alaska where this is a way to deliver graphics to schoolchildren? Does this impact One Laptop per Child, California Open Source Textbook Project, Afripedia Project? Djembayz (talk) 01:05, 13 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Sample offline Wikipedias with Kiwix offline reader that need photos


From the Kiwix twitter news feed:

  • Pilot with ~20 #Afripedia !Kiwix plugs with #Wikipedia going to be deployed in West and Central Africa universities
   about 3 days ago 
  • New #Venezuela #Encyclopedia ZIM with ~10.000 articles coming from #Wikipedia !Kiwix !Wikimedia
   about 4 days ago 
  • !Kiwix used by children in #Venezuela
   about 4 days ago 
  • !Kiwix with #Wikipedia installed on 80 computers in Huajuapan de León, #Mexico by #KidsOnComputers
  • Kiwix user interface newly translated in #Burmese. Thx #Translatewiki.

about 12 days ago

  • !Kiwix user interface translated in two new languages: #Khmer and #Urdu. Thx #Translatewiki.

about 3 months ago

  • LeVoyagedel'Amitié has successfully installed !Kiwix in 3 School's Libraries in Senegal! Thank You :)

about 3 months ago Djembayz (talk) 01:05, 13 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Summary FoP law table


"Unlike most civilized countries, the United States does not recognize freedom of panorama (except for buildings)..." I think it would be helpful in making this case to prepare a summary table (could be based on the detailed content at COM:FOP) listing countries that allow commercial FOP for 1) buildings, 2) 3D art (e.g., statues), and 3) 2D art (e.g., murals).cmadler (talk) 15:10, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

I started the table here: Commons:Freedom of panorama/table Kaldari (talk) 21:39, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I think we should also be fair in our wording. "Civilized" countries like France and Italy don't even recognize FoP for buildings. The situation is not ideal but it could be worse. Daniel Case (talk) 05:36, 13 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Heh, that was something of a joke. I've reworded it to be less flippant. Kaldari (talk) 21:04, 13 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
But "most countries" is likely incorrect.--Ymblanter (talk) 21:06, 13 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Proposed wording


If we're seriously going to do this, we need to be specific about our desired outcome, probably to the point of offering draft legislation. Also, if option 1 is to change US FOP laws to include art (preferably both 3D and 2D), a backup option that might meet less opposition could be for the US to apply the FOP provision of the country in which the work is located. cmadler (talk) 15:22, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

A related item for the long-term agenda would be to get the U.S. to adopt the rule of the shorter term like everywhere else does. Kaldari (talk) 21:19, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
AMEN! I almost mentioned that myself, but I think it's getting off-track from what this page was made for. cmadler (talk) 21:31, 12 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
the main thing is to start the conversation, and remain flexible. we will be the only ones talking about open-ness. all the paid lobbyists are for SOPA, etc. Slowking4 †@1₭ 17:32, 13 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Short and long term goals


Here's my take:

Emergency/short term goal: Codify the "understanding" that if something is legal in the country of origin because of freedom of panorama, it is legal in the United States under the same conditions.

^^This is what we should concentrate on in 2012 and early 2013^^

More goals:

Medium term goal: Codify that if any use of a photograph created in another country is legal to reproduce in that country under specific conditions, it is legal to reproduce in the United States under the same conditions. The only exception would be conditions related only to a photograph whose copyright expired or never existed. In these cases, any rights that locals would have to reproduce the work if it was still under copyright would be enjoyed by those in the United States.

Long term goal #1: Apply the same logic to items other than photographs. Call this "rule of the lesser restriction," named after the "rule of the shorter term."

Long term goal #2, independent of the MTG and LTG#1: Get things like Freedom of Panorama codified in US copyright law.

If the first two haven't been done through Congressional or Court action by 2015, then the triennial DMCA review process.

Davidwr (talk) 20:51, 13 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Baby step: state-level arts grants


Partly for attention-getting, partly to help build momentum, one could lobby at the state level for state-funded public art to require that newly-installed public sculpture be acquired in a way where the artist specifically grants freedom of panorama. This seems like it would be a fairly straightforward case to make -- "we [taxpayers] paid for this sculpture, but we can't even photograph it?". - Afiler (talk) 19:55, 16 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

How would you issue a permanent and open (to anyone) grant of such a permission in a concise manner? A state (or municipality -- don't forget about municipal art!) could easily include such a clause in their contract, but how can you best make this permission known on a work-by-work basis in an enduring manner? I'm thinking here of some sort of mark or abbreviation that could quickly and concisely convey this information, akin to "CC-BY-SA". cmadler (talk) 21:06, 16 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Or possibly just state laws: if the taxpayers are paying (anything) for your sculpture, then freedom of panorama applies. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:22, 18 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
The problem is that because of the way funding flows through various organizations as grants, it's not always easy to identify whether a work has a public funding component, particularly if you're on site. cmadler (talk) 14:26, 19 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I was thinking specifically about the ones that were installed on public land, but you're right, there are more works than those. WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:48, 19 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
And, going the other way, not all works installed on public land were funded -- even partially -- with public money. cmadler (talk) 16:47, 19 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
What we would probably want would be a law saying that all publicly funded permanent public art (for a particular jurisdiction) must be licensed by the artist under the CC-Zero license. Kaldari (talk) 00:33, 20 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Identify violations


Go to the websites of politicians and cities and look out for any photo that is actually a violation of copyright and that wouldn't be a problem with FOP (stuff like [2] or [3]) Write to your local representatives and ask them if they think that such a simple thing like taking a photo of public artwork and sharing it online should really be a copyright problem. --FA2010 (talk) 08:22, 23 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

The first link is dead. Yann (talk) 09:09, 23 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
They both work for me. Davidwr (talk) 12:17, 23 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
A question: Is the © violation the statute or the design on the tie? ;) Davidwr (talk) 12:17, 23 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I think that's a good idea. Most legislators likely don't know that this kind of thing is actually a violation, and wouldn't support it being a violation if they realized that "me, looking like an important person in front of a famous statue" or "local landmark, showing my pride in my district" is a problem. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:16, 23 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Be careful. Some of that sort of image might fall under a fair use claim. cmadler (talk) 14:20, 26 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Throw our toys out of the pram


When hit with a DMCA, we should immediately and thoroughly comply so that no trace of that author's work remains at Commons, where such works are de minimis they should either be cropped, or better still be blanked so the background remains but the artwork does not, we should then delete and salt any wikipedia article featuring specifically those art works and their author, and proceed to excise any mention of the author from other articles. We should then publicly announce to as many media outlets as possible that will listen that we have complied with DMCA, apologise for any distress caused and that the author should in future have no need to worry about their work appearing in any wikimedia project now or in future.

This relys on the long term that an artist feels shunned by the online community, that the loss of their article hits their ego, and that commercially they feel that they may lose out due to bad publicity.--KTo288 (talk) 16:14, 26 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

This will not work at all, since most people simply do not care. Take Sony for example: distribution of malware, huge negligence with customer personal data, YouTube hunt, SOPA/PIPA promotion, vendor lock-in politics... Did it all affect they business? — Mikhail Ryazanov (talk) 02:19, 28 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I think artists will have a little more concern as to how they are seen, their desire for approval by others, and how in future remembered than corporations, but even if you're right we will be forced to comply anyway, and given that we must why not have a tantrum (see title of this section), whilst doing so.--KTo288 (talk) 11:26, 29 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Lead by example


For a start the foundation should commission or have a volunteer create a piece of eyecatching public scuplture to be placed in a public place (if it was me it would be a giant bronze barnstar for the front of the Wikimedia Foundation building-it doesnt need to be good just something that people walking by will feel compelled to point their cameras at and share) the artwork should be released with a license reflecting what we desire to be best practise i.e. total Frreedom of Panorama with no restrictions on the use of derivative works.

We can as individuals and communities create FOP licensed works, maybe we will only be able to display them in our front gardens, and maybe not for long, but such works can serve as a basis of educating our neighbours as to what FOP is (create a pamphlet outlining the facts-include a plaque with your work), and I'm sure some of them will be shocked to find the restrictions placed on publically funded art works, works which most believe belong to their communities.

Create online materials that will aid the next generation of artists to develop and through freely giving of our own time and skills, make it the norm for others to do the same.

Maybe theres room for a new wiki project WikiArt say, or it could be run under the aegis of an expanded Wikiversity, Visual arts-actually learning how to create art and creating art is as educational as learning about the history of art so such a project would be inline with the Foundations overall educational remit.

In summary this approach is to create the desire for a change in FOP laws from the bottom up by education and participation rather than to lobby for change from the top down.--KTo288 (talk) 16:14, 26 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Guerilla art campaign


(split of into own section from above)

We can also push the other way. Get an artwork placed in a location that is already highly photographed in such a way that a photograph can't be taken without including the new work, and then issue DMCA takedown notices left and right to highlight the absurdity of the issue. cmadler (talk) 16:35, 26 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Actual DMCAs would seem a mite too aggressive, maybe a mock up of a DMCA notice followed by a note along the liines of, according to US law the image that you are using at ..... is considered a violation of copyright, we believe this to be absurd and if you believe this too please write to your congressman to change US FOP laws.--KTo288 (talk) 18:05, 26 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Well, my though was to push it to absurdity (hence the notion of sticking an artwork in a place that's already heavily photographed). Imagine, for example, if one could get a copyrighted statue placed in front of the White House, front and center (and large), such that any new photos of the White House would require permission from the artist! cmadler (talk) 18:31, 26 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Actually what would be better would be for the artwork to be by a US artist in Trafalgar Square or in front of the Brandenburg Gate, because the Oldenburg DMCAs are claiming that his works are protected by US law even if the works are located in countries with FOP.--19:05, 26 November 2012 (UTC)
Yes! cmadler (talk) 21:03, 26 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
this is a brilliant idea, and might get extensive supportive coverage from the likes of Boing-Boing. Right up their alley. -- 18:46, 22 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
In the realm of silliness, I think that a large sign that says "It is illegal to post a picture of this sign online" would be attractive to passersby. WhatamIdoing (talk) 09:11, 27 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
Without additional elements, that would probably fail to meet the threshold of originality in the US. cmadler (talk) 13:32, 27 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I think that it might, barely, because it's original text, but that objection is easily solved: pick interesting colors, or use a variety of typefaces, or take a marker and hand-draw a wavy line around it or a smiley face in the corner. Originality doesn't require very much beyond the default. WhatamIdoing (talk) 14:12, 29 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
If an artist in the US can come up with a detailed description of a piece and detailed instructions on how to compose an art work, ie the concept forthe work, than any work created to those instructons, would be considered to be by his or her hand, imagine hundreds of identical artworks simultaneously sprouting up in cities all around the world, I'm sure it would catch the attention of the news media, and be a magnet for people wanting to take a picture/have their picture taken with it.--KTo288 (talk) 15:30, 29 November 2012 (UTC)[reply]
I like the idea of the sign, and agree that it wouldn't be difficult to make such a sign meet the threshold of originality. -- Trevj (talk) 12:41, 13 December 2012 (UTC)[reply]

Why not start simply?

[edit] is open to all Americans, and a small push on Wikipedia would be enough to get the 100,000 signatures in 30 days necessary. Adam Cuerden (talk) 10:44, 29 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

I agree. Do you want to sandbox a petition text? cmadler (talk) 14:31, 29 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Should we start a petition first or try and drum up support for a while, then start the petition? I expected the link to the White House to go right to a petition. I was disappointed but not deterred. Einar aka Carptrash (talk) 16
38, 29 January 2013 (UTC)
Petition first, I think. As Adam pointed out, it should be fairly easy to publicize and get a sizeable number of signatures, but we first need something to publicize. cmadler (talk) 16:50, 29 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
And that means "write the petition first". If we want something practical to happen, then we need to make an actionable suggestion. That means writing something like "If it's legal to print pictures of a permanently installed public artwork in Germany, even for commercial purposes, then it should be legal for the same pictures to be copied here in the US, under the same terms." A petition that amounts to "we're all against poverty, war and injustice, unlike the rest of you" is not going to be as useful. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:23, 29 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
There were several different steps suggested above (see Commons:Freedom of panorama campaign#Short and long term goals. For an initial petition such as this, should we start with the smallest requested change? That would be "If something is legal in the country of origin because of Freedom of Panorama, it should be legal in the US under the same conditions." This would be the FOP application of what Davidwr termed the "rule of the lesser restriction". cmadler (talk) 17:34, 29 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I think the smallest proposal is the best place to start, because the smaller the request, the less likely anyone could oppose it. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:06, 30 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Freedom of panorama

I think using language such as, "Unlike most civilized countries" is counter productive. While we might feel that France, Italy & Belgium are in fact not very civilized, this is not a good starting point. I created a map, based largely on the great chart someone else did above. It is interesting to me that all the former Soviet Union countries do not have freedom of panorama when copyright seems to be such a capitalist thing. But I digress. Let's get language and start a petition. Carptrash (talk) 15:52, 31 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

I agree that we should avoid language like that. The map might be an oversimplification, because the US (as well as Denmark, Finland, Norway, Japan, and Argentina) does have a limited FOP covering buildings only. I suggest that Argentina's color should be switched to yellow, and the map should be noted as "countries that do and do not have full freedom of panorama" or something of that sort. cmadler (talk) 16:32, 31 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Petition sandbox


{Note that this is written from a US point of view, as it's intended for an American audience.} {Summary here}

In most cases, copyright law reserves the right to create or to permit the creation of derivative works to the copyright holder. Many countries allow a limited exception to this, called "Freedom of Panorama". In general, this allows the free creation of derivatives of works on permanent public display, including building exteriors, publicly sited sculptures and statues, and murals. This is necessary because a photograph taken or video made in almost any public place will tend to include some buildings and perhaps public art; without Freedom of Panorama outdoor photos and videos in cities and towns become nearly impossible.

Current US copyright law only permits a limited Freedom of Panorama, covering buildings, but not statues, sculptures, monuments, and other works of public art. Copyrighted works that can not legally be depicted without permission include the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial {add other prominent examples}... In fact, the sculptor of the Korean War Veterans Memorial -- a national monument located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. -- successfully sued the US Post Office for issuing a stamp showing the memorial! If current laws had applied, the Statue of Liberty couldn't have been photographed until 1975.

Changing the law is, of course, up to Congress. But there's an additional issue at play, which is foreign works.

Under some interpretations of the law, even artworks located in countries that have a full Freedom of Panorama can't be reproduced in the US. These include "Christ the Redeemer", the monumental Art Deco statue of Jesus overlooking Rio de Janeiro.

Text discussion


If we don't get started, then we'll never get done. I've made a space for someone to start writing this petition. I'm not sure what the usual form is, so perhaps someone familiar with the White House petitions will get us started. Or perhaps someone will have an idea for even one sentence. Then anyone can make changes (at #Petition sandbox or make suggestions on it here. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:50, 1 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]

I've given it a start, by describing what FOP is, and why it matters. If anyone else can supply the names of other copyrighted works that need FOP and that will be broadly familiar to a US audience, please add them in. (The Korean War Memorial, with the history of the lawsuit against the post office, is the best I've got!) cmadler (talk) 20:21, 1 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
In terms of the minimum use case (the photographs of public art in Germany that we had to take down because of the US restrictions, even though the images are 100% free in Germany), perhaps we could find a famous but still fairly recent statue in Germany to use as an example. There are a lot of Holocaust or WWII memorials in Germany, such as en:Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and all of them are likely to be within the normal copyright time period. Even if people don't recognize the specific piece of artwork, everyone will understand the problem with "Germany says anyone can distribute pictures of this German Holocaust memorial, but the US copyright law says you can't, because it's not 'a building'". WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:15, 2 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I like the Statue of Liberty example. Construction started in 1875, it was dedicated in 1886, and the designer died in 1904. So does that mean the relevant date is 1974? WhatamIdoing (talk) 15:58, 2 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
70 years pma from a 1904 death means it would have become free on 1/1/1975. cmadler (talk) 19:12, 2 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I've added the '5' to the '197'. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:08, 3 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]
How about simply mentioning the DMCA takedown request for lots of statues by w:Claes Oldenburg? This is something which might make people angry. --Stefan4 (talk) 16:15, 8 February 2013 (UTC)[reply]