Panorama freedom update

Back in August, I mentioned that a couple of Liberal MPs in Belgium were seeking to implement “panorama rights” in the country. These would ensure that copyright claims could not made for works placed in public.

In short, if an artist puts a work in a public space, they have already conceded that people can take photos of it.

And now:

The Belgian parliament’s business commission has just finalised proposals for legislation on ‘panorama freedom’ and this will mean that everyone gets the right to take photographs of such landmarks without having to fear the full force of the law.

Flemish liberal lawmakers Patricia Ceysens and Frank Wilryck argue that the individual’s right to take snaps should prevail above copyright that offers protection to works of art and buildings in the public domain: “This is simple logic, especially because many of these works of art have been purchased using monies from the public purse.”

Under the bill that has the backing of other government parties everybody will have the right to take snaps of and share images of such landmarks as well publish photographs in books and on the internet. The works must be on permanent display in the public domain. Works of art in museums will still be protected.

With luck, I will be able to legally take a photo of the Atomium before I die.

Shane Richmond on copyright

An idea is not property, which is why the term “intellectual property” is so insidious. If I have a car and you take it then I don’t have a car anymore. If I have an idea and you take it, then we both have that idea. Thinking of cultural products as property only helps the companies that have built their business on accumulating rights.

Of course, if you take my idea and use it to make money then my business will suffer and I will have less incentive to have ideas in the future. We need a period of protection for ideas to ensure that creators keep coming up with them because they are vital to our culture. It is, more than anything, part of what makes use human.

But for exactly that reason protection periods should also be kept as short as possible. Once that period has expired, others should be free to reuse, rethink and remix those concepts and incorporate them into their own ideas. That is how every art form has evolved and stayed vibrant. Now more than ever, with the speed of culture accelerated by digital technology, it is imperative that protection periods be shortened.

Read the rest

Quote of the day: Panoramic freedom

People’s freedom to take pictures in public has to be more important that copyright protection.

Belgian MP, Patricia Ceysens, one of two Liberal MPs preparing a bill to implement “panorama rights” into the country’s copyright law. This is the principle that, if an artist puts their work in a public space then they must have realised that people will take photos of it – either deliberately or in the background – and, therefore, they can’t make any copyright claims over these photos.

Ceysens also notes that

That’s only logical, since these works are often paid for with public funds.

While this is not necessarily the best argument when talking about panorama rights, it is an important principle in itself. If the taxpayer has paid for somenthing, then the taxpayer owns it. If this principle were applied consistently then there would be no copyright applicable to publicly funded artworks (because ‘copyright the entire country of…’ is completely unworkable) and no patents on publicly funded research.

And that would be an excellent first step towards rebuilding a commons.

The Problem With Proprietary

I have seen the view expressed that open source and/or free software isn’t really relevant to enterprise systems. The reasoning (and this is coming from an IBM i perspective, I can’t speak to the experience on other platforms) is that, while the programs we have are proprietary we do have access to the source, can find out what is going on in the database and are able to either extend the software or build interfaces around it depending on requirements.

It’s true that none of these enhancements can be shared but no logistics company (to take an example) is going to get into the business of distributing software, so this restriction exists in theory rather than in practice.

Then Oracle comes along and provides the counter argument: Oracle smacks JD Edwards help site with cease and desist order

A JD Edwards technical reference and help site has been forced to close after being sent a cease-and-desist letter from Oracle.

The site’s UK-based webmaster recently revealed that a legal representative from Oracle, which acquired JD Edwards’ owner PeopleSoft in 2005, sent the cease-and-desist letter requesting the closure of the site due to perceived IP infringement.

The Oracle legal letter argued that by providing information about JD Edwards’ software schemas, the site was infringing on Oracle as a rights holder. The letter requested that the site admin “remove or disable access to this material.”

Let’s be quite clear here. The only people who are going to be interested in JD Edwards schemas are the people working for companies that have bought the JD Edwards software. These people will be capable of obtaining or building the schema information for themselves but, without an external reference, this information will be fragmented across multiple customers and left to become obsolete and increasingly accurate.

By thinking in entirely in terms of copyright protection, all that Oracle has achieved is to close down a site that gave businesses a reason to continue doing business with Oracle.

Before I finish this post, I would like to clarify that the point of this post is not to bash Oracle. Obviously, the focus is on Oracle and JD Edwards because the site that was shut down was The operator of this site was slapped down for trying to help his professional community and (indirectly) add to his supplier’s bottom line. Most people working on this sort of software simply wouldn’t bother, and this is both a result of using proprietary software and an unnecessary expense for the businesses that buy it.


According to Techdirt (via), the London 2012 censorship silliness is getting ever worse. They even have a linking policy:

Links to the Site. You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations (or our or their activities, products or services) in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner. The use of our logo or any other Olympic or London 2012 Mark(s) as a link to the Site is not permitted. View our guidelines on Use of the Games’ Marks.

Let’s see, shall we:

h/t MediaWatchWatch

Quote of the Day: Banksy on Advertising

People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.

– Banksy, via Jack of Kent.

And while we’re on the subject, here’s Bill Hicks on Marketing:

Meta: Categories

Observant watcher(s) of this blog may have noticed a slight category change recently. Under the Ranting category there used to be a category of rants filed under Copyright, Patents and Trademarks. This has now been split out into three separate categories: Copyright, Patents and Trademarks.

The reason for this split is that clarity matters. Copyright, patents and trademarks are different constructs with different histories and different reasons for existing. Consequently, the issues that stem from each are different. When these issues are clumped together, the result is invariably an unholy mess of confusion and, ultimately, bad legislation. Like ACTA.

There are a variety of issues that need to be worked through with regards to these things, and a whole range of questions that need to be resolved. We will never be able to build a consensus, however, if we can’t even agree what we are talking about.


Comic cover Many advocates of extending copyright and bringing the full weight of the legal system down on copyright infringers cite the need to protect content creators against the hordes of downloaders swapping material for free. Here’s an example (via) of how this works in practice:

After nearly five years of bitter and depressing legal back-and-forth only slightly ameliorated by the fact that it concerned a biker with a flaming skull, Marvel has won a lawsuit that forces Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich to stop identifying himself as “Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich,” simply because he is the creator of Ghost Rider.

This all started back in 2007 when Friedrich sued Marvel claiming that rights to the character had reverted back to him in 2001. Marvel responded by arguing that Friedrich had relinquished all rights when he cashed his paychecks, all of which were stamped with a bit of boilerplate legalese. Marvel then counter-sued Friedrich in 2010, seeking damages for all of the Ghost Rider prints and other merchandise Friedrich had sold at conventions.

As payback, not only can Friedrich no longer sell his own Ghost Rider merchandise, he can’t even represent himself as its co-creator, thereby robbing him of any potential financial gain he might accrue from convention appearances and the like. (He will, however, still be able to sign officially licensed Marvel merchandise, either with ink or bitter tear stains.) In addition, Marvel is also demanding $17,000 from the unemployed, financially destitute 68-year-old, which Comic Book Resources surmises will serve as a warning to all others who currently enjoy the privilege of selling their own unlicensed merchandise, and should maybe just keep their mouths shut then.

The problem with copyright, as it currently stands, is not that it is too weak or that random downloaders are destroying the entertainment industry. The problem with copyright is that it works to the benefit of distributors and against the interests of creators.

Copyright reform is long overdue.