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EU freedom of panorama; Nehru outrage; BBC apology

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By Gamaliel, Jheald, Andreas Kolbe, and utcursch

European Parliament decision-day approaches on freedom of panorama

A week now remains until the vote, expected on 9 July, when the European Parliament will express either its approval, disapproval, or lack of opinion on the question of freedom of panorama in the European Union, and battle lines are being drawn. (See earlier Signpost article "Three weeks to save freedom of panorama in Europe", and review of initial press coverage last week).

Following approval at Wikipedia talk:Freedom of Panorama 2015, sitenotice banners have now been activated above articles, warning readers of the over 40,000 images currently on Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons of modern buildings and public art that depend on the Freedom of Panorama copyright exception (drawing coverage including from BBC World Service Spanish, as well as an acerbic piece in The Register by frequent Wikipedia critic Andrew Orlowski); while a petition at supporting freedom of panorama has been steadily growing and (as of 1 July) is now approaching 200,000 signatures.

On 2 July, the French MEP Jean-Marie Cavada, who had proposed the text effectively calling for an end to commercial freedom of panorama in the EU, announced that he would no longer be supporting this proposal, and would now be calling on all MEPs to delete it. With the direct threat averted, Dimitar Dimitrov (dimi_z), Wikipedia's person on the spot in Brussels, called for the banner campaign to be stood down.

Wikipedia is "a U.S. monopoly" ... acting "to the detriment of the entire European cultural sector"
The words of MEP Jean-Marie Cavada, set against an image of the European Parliament building in Strasburg, blacked out to demonstrate the current lack of Freedom of Panorama in France, as presented on the blog of Julia Reda MEP.

Earlier in the week, Cavada, whose text, adopted by the legal affairs committee, proposed that

"the commercial use of photographs, video footage or other images of works which are permanently located in physical public places should always be subject to prior authorisation from the authors or any proxy acting for them",

had slammed defenders of freedom of panorama as acting "under the guise of defending free access to works on behalf of users", when their fight was "actually one conducted primarily to allow US monopolies such as Facebook or Wikimedia to escape the payment of fees to the creators".

Rotterdam Centraal station ...
... and L'Hemisfèric, Valencia: examples used to highlight consequences of a removal of freedom of panorama

Cavada's position closely reflects that of the French copyright collecting society ADAGP, the Society of Authors in the Graphic and Plastic Arts. For ADAGP, the "cultural patrimony" of its members is at stake: their rights to be in control of the commercial utilisation of their works, and to refuse to see them modified, misrepresented, or used in the advertising of products or causes of which they disapprove. ADAGP has strongly been pushing a line of "no reuse without remuneration" in the Parliament, and a key current objective of the society is to negotiate 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. The society retains approximately 25% of the gross of copyright licenses that it administers. According to ADAGP, it believes that between 10–20% of image rights, currently generating net payments of between 3 and 6 million euros per year, relate to sculptures or buildings in France that would be affected by freedom of panorama. This would also represent a loss of income to ADAGP itself of between about 1 and 2 million euros per year. The society has been circulating a Q&A flyer on the "Panorama Exception" to MEPs, to which the Wikimedia Brussels team has prepared a rebuttal. Some of the maps used by ADAGP have also been called into question.

According to Cavada, Wikipedia's insistence on providing images "in high definition format, open for editing, with the ability for use for commercial purposes" was "a deliberate attempt to avoid paying rights to authors, heirs or collecting societies", and contended that MEP Julia Reda's original proposals "especially for the benefit of those service providers" would "do nothing more for consumers, but would formalize the pursuit of their activities with impunity to the detriment of the entire European cultural and creative sector". (26 June)

The Haus Le Corbusier on the Weissenhof Estate, Stuttgart, Germany – a country with freedom of panorama – used by Wikimédia France to illustrate its response

In a rejoinder posted on 1 July, Wikimédia France hit back that the bracketing with Facebook showed that Cavada "completely misses the collaborative movement and the commons", and added that

We understand why rightsholders like to have their works on Wikipedia. Without the possibility of commercial reuse, we are a great free advertising brochure, so long as Wikipedia changes the rules that have made ​​it the world cultural site by accepting [non-reusable] non-free content, according to the wishes of these private companies.

The stakes are clear enough. Freedom of panorama can lose some income to certain authors or assigns, which is fairly easy to calculate. But it can also generate economic activity, by removing obstacles, including for the transformation of works and "unforeseen" reuse. The impact is more difficult to assess because all the possibilities and therefore earnings are not known at the time the decision to open the valves is taken. Gains are not only economic, but also societal. The free dissemination of knowledge is not just about money. The possibility of commercial re-use and economic innovation that may result are for us a way to reach our true goal: improving the well-being of all, through better dissemination of knowledge.

For herself, Reda, writing in a blog-post (1 July), considered that the Cavada proposal should not be seen as the product of an evil lobby, but rather was symptomatic of a general approach by the MEPs on the legal committee,

[extending] the same attitude and convictions they apply to all copyright reform issues ... siding entirely with existing art, made by the few lucky enough to profit from yesterday’s business models, at the expense of the new and independent, which modern technology and connectivity enables the many to create and share.

She also condemned a tendency of much of the media that she considered had jumped on this as an opportunity to "bash the European Union":

Don't blame the EU for your MEPs: ... I want to make it very clear: This [horrible] idea was hatched by representatives elected by the people, and passed (so far) by representatives elected by the people. No shadowy bureaucrats were involved. If you want to prevent situations like this one, elect better representatives – and stay involved.

Contending views of freedom of panorama were presented by Wikimedia's Dimitrov and ADAGP, together with five other witnesses, on the morning of 2 July (agenda) at a hearing of the working group on intellectual property rights and copyright reform of the legal affairs committee of the European Parliament, with Jean-Marie Cavada in the chair. Unfortunately it would seem that the meeting was not covered by broadcast streaming or recording, although some slide-packs may be available after the event.

Meanwhile, with the deadline for amendments (1 July) having passed, it is now confirmed that the Parliament will be faced with a three-way choice in the vote itself next week:

With the apparent collapse of support for the Cavada text, Wikimedians are still encouraging editors to contact their MEPs to confirm the MEPs' support for its deletion; as well as to suggest individual support for the Schaake amendment, on the basis that (for example) freedom of panorama encourages greater cultural sharing and vibrancy across Europe (and more complete Wikipedia articles!), whereas the present patchwork of laws is unhelpful and creates confusion, whether for photographers, for websites, or for small publishers trying to operate in multiple countries. However, due to various procedural deals that have been made across the report as a whole, it is likely that group lines (in particular that of the centre-left S&D group) will be for deletion only, without addition of new text. The advice from Dimitrov is not to push this, as at this early stage of the legislative process winning goodwill is more important than trying to win a vote that will be essentially symbolic—the essential thing was to show the depth of resistance to the Cavada text, to stop that in its tracks, which with luck it appears we will have achieved. Moving forward, the priority ahead will be to try to build up relationships that may be valuable when the detailed copyright reform dossier comes into the parliament, some time in the next 12 months. J

Nehru edits cause outrage in India

Jawaharlal Nehru

June 26 edits regarding Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India and a widely admired figure in India and around the world, sparked outrage in that country. The edits, which were quickly reverted, made a number of disparaging and inaccurate claims about Nehru's background and career in the articles on Nehru, his father Motilal Nehru, and his grandfather Gangadhar Nehru. The IP address responsible for those edits,, belongs to the National Informatics Centre, a government agency responsible for its information and communications technology.

The edits claimed that Nehru was born in a "red light area", was "more interested in political power and women", that his grandfather was born Muslim and later changed his name and became a Hindu, and that Nehru had been sexually blackmailed by Lady Edwina Mountbatten, the wife of the last British Governor-General of India, Lord Mountbatten. The first claim seems to originate from the fact that Nehru's birthplace Meergunj is now a red-light district. The blackmail claim is based on the alleged love affair between Nehru and Lady Mountbatten, attested by Mountbatten's daughters, who insisted that it was unconsummated. The claim that the Nehrus were Muslims stems from a conspiracy theory popular among certain Hindu nationalists, who accuse the Nehru–Gandhi family and their Indian National Congress of being pseudo-secular and anti-Hindu. According to this theory, Gangadhar was a Muslim who adopted a fake Hindu identity to avoid an arrest during the British Raj.

The edits were brought to widespread attention via the Twitter bot AnonGoIWPEdits, which tweets links to edits from IP addresses belonging to the Indian government. AnonGoIWPEdits was created by Pranesh Prakash, policy director of the Centre for Internet and Society. It is one of many similar Twitter bots created beginning last August to monitor Wikipedia edits from government entities and other organizations (see previous Signpost coverage). Prakash told The Times of India that "I think it is interesting to see what government people are editing anonymously...Most edits are inane. A great number merely introduce spelling errors." In this particular case, he noted "These changes were reverted in minutes, in one case in one minute."

Politicians with the Indian National Congress expressed their outrage, directing it towards their principal rival, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which has close links to Hindu nationalist organizations. The Hindu reported that Abhishek Manu Singhvi claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party was responsible in an effort to influence upcoming elections in Bihar. He demanded an investigation and said that "Prime Minister Modi and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad should tell us what action they are taking on the editing on Wikipedia pages by a government agency."

In a related article, discusses what kinds of edits Indian government employees have been making over the last year. G, U

BBC apologises for Shapps reporting

British political blogger "Guido Fawkes" writing for The Sun reports (June 28) that the BBC has apologised to UK Conservative politician Grant Shapps for giving much pre-election airtime to damaging allegations that Shapps had edited his own Wikipedia biography as well as those of other politicians, while giving comparatively little coverage to the fact that a subsequent Wikipedia arbitration case found that the allegations could not be substantiated and were in violation of Wikipedia policy (see previous Signpost coverage: 1, 2, 3, 4).

ConservativeHome comments that reporting by the BBC and some newspapers reflected a lack of familiarity with Wikipedia:

Shapps has reproduced the letter he received from the BBC on his website. The story has also been picked up by The Independent (June 29) and The Register (June 30), with the Press Gazette, a UK media trade magazine, also weighing in on June 30 with an article titled "BBC's James Harding says 'sorry' to Grant Shapps over scant coverage of Wikipedia story 'correction'". AK

In brief

Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace

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If freedom of panorama is to be completely prohibited in the European Union, then there exists possibilities of that union preventing the publication of images featuring public artworks and buildings. Such images would be deleted if Europe opposes FOP. }I6ixce93IxI{ 23:48, 3 July 2015 (UTC)[reply]

I suspect the current (French) rules are more honoured in the breach than the observance. All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 15:05, 6 July 2015 (UTC).[reply]

Voting: outcomes

Today the European Parliament voted about the copyright report, including the subject Freedom of Panorama.

  • The negative text by Cavada (Freedom of Panorama only non-commercial in whole EU) was dropped by 502 to 40.
  • The positive text by Schaake (full Freedom of Panorama in whole EU) didn't pass by 228 to 303.
  • The report as a whole was accepted with 445 to 65 with 32 abstentions.

Thanks everyone, we almost manage to achieve a full swing, which is a very tough feat to get done in 3 weeks.

What is next?
Autumn 2015: European Commission planned proposal on a renewed EU Directive.

Romaine (talk) 14:28, 9 July 2015 (UTC)[reply]


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