The copyright of architecture photos

If you are worried about infringement or your work has been copied and you want to take action.
Post Reply
Experienced Member
Experienced Member
Posts: 58
Joined: Sat Dec 26, 2015 6:44 pm

The copyright of architecture photos

Post by Halie0201 »

I'd like to take a photo of architectures in the public place in Italy. I knew from some websites that there are a lot of limitations. How can I take the photos legally?

Besides, I wanted to shoot a scene that my brothers and sister standing before a scripture of Italy. And some scriptures and buildings will be included in the video. Can I do that? If I shoot a street scene, can I do that? :shock: :?:
User avatar
Posts: 2913
Joined: Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:43 am

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Halie,

You are right that Italy is among the group of European states which does not provide a legal exception to copyright for works such as pieces of architecture and sculptures situated in or readily viewable from, public spaces. This kind of exception is called Freedom of Panorama, and exists, for instance, in UK law.
Scope of freedom of panorama in the countries of Europe
Dark Green OK, including works of art
Light Green OK for buildings only
Yellow OK for non-commercial use only
Red Not OK
There are two aspects to your question. If the pieces of architecture and the 'scriptures' (I am sorry to say I don't know what you mean by this term), are no longer in copyright, because their creator died more than 70 years ago, then you can freely photograph them. However if it is something created in the twentieth or twenty-first century, then permission may be required from the architect or artist (see below), and not the current owner of the object or building.

So assuming this is something where copyright still applies, the next question is what use you intend to make of the photographs or video. If this is purely for personal use, and not for publication (that would include putting the images on any website including things like Facebook or Instagram etc), then you generally don't need permission. However if there is to be any publication, whether for profit or not, then permission of the artist or architect is required. There is one exception to this general rule, and that is where a building or sculpture etc is included accidentally or only 'incidentally' to the main subject. However from the way you have described what you plan to do, it doesn't sound like inclusion would be incidental since you planning to include the works in the shot of your brothers and sister. For the general street scene, especially if it was a pan shot, incidental inclusion might apply, as long it is clear that the building or 'scripture' was not a feature in the shot.

On a practical level, if you are unsure about whether or not permission is needed, it would be sensible to ask at a local tourist information office to see if they know anything about the artist or architect. It may be that if this is a famous or popular object for tourists to photograph, the tourist office may know whether the artist etc actually wishes to enforce his copyright. Many architects accept that, practically, they cannot take action against everyone who wants to photograph their building without permission, and may have given a sort of blanket permission, preferring to gain from the publicity the pictures may bring, instead.

As an example of how all this works in practice, let's take a famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower in France where similar rules exist to those in Italy. By day it is perfectly all right to take photographs of the Eiffel Tower, even for commercial use, because Monsieur Eiffel died in 1923 and so his creation is no longer protected by copyright. However by night the Tower is illuminated by a modern light show which the French courts have determined is an artistic performance that is protected by copyright, and so photographing or videoing the illuminated Tower for commercial purposes requires permission (unless the inclusion is just incidental).

Graphic courtesy of Wilipedia article on freedom of panorama.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
Experienced Member
Experienced Member
Posts: 81
Joined: Fri Jan 15, 2016 8:40 am
Location: UK

Post by Lumberjack »

I never knew that!
I always believed that I could photograph any scene, building or object for whatever use I wished. I must have taken literally thousands of "illegal" photographs all over the world over the past 55 years! I know ignorance is no excuse, so just hope they don't find me!
Post Reply