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EU allows photos of churches in UK

17 July 2015


Lawful panorama: a view of the west front of Wells Cathedral

Lawful panorama: a view of the west front of Wells Cathedral

PROPOSALS that would have made it unlawful to publish photos of some churches were voted down by members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg last week.

The proposal had been included in a raft of measures to standardise copyright laws across the European Union, in a move designed to encourage cross-border publications.

In some countries, such as the UK, the right to “freedom of panorama” is enshrined in law; but, in other countries, such as France, the rights of a designer prevail.

This means, for example, that it is lawful to publish pictures of the Eiffel Tower taken during the day; but it is unlawful to publish pictures of the tower taken at night, because the tower’s light-show is protected by copyright.

If that law had been extended, it could prevent publication of photos of some churches without the consent of designers. The proposals would affect public works under 70 years old that are “permanently located in physical public places”.

This would exclude most churches, but the co-editor of the blog Law and Religion UK, David Pocklington, suggested that photos of Wells Cathedral, for example, could be caught by the proposals, because, although the building is no longer protected by copyright, the modern statues on the front of the west end would be.

But, after objections from the public, MEPs rejected the proposal.

The Conservative MEP for North West England, Sajjad Karim, said that the agreement extended only to buildings and structures rather than two-dimensional artwork, and urged that “two-dimensional works must remain protected.”

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