Armchair Activism

10.07.2015 |

  • Posted by Nigel BarkerNigel Barker
  • 6823401173_2a32c39f72_o

    “Hello, my name is Nigel and I am an armchair activist.”

    If there is an online petition I’ll sign it. “Save the bees” signed “Save the woodland.” Signed. “Don’t scrap Independent Living Allowance.” Done.

    Most of these petitions are signed to appease my own social conscience, they make me feel good, but rarely (apart from the obvious problems that would occur without our primary pollinators on planet earth) do they directly affect my life or working life.

    However last week I was alerted to a proposed change to European Law that would have had massive implications for my industry, The Freedom of Panorama.

    Effectively, this amendment would have restricted ANYONE’s ability to take a photograph in public that featured a building, monument or landmark without prior agreement from interested parties.

    There was a lot of speculation as to what this would actually mean, but in it’s broadest sense, if you intended to ‘earn money’ from a photo that featured for example a shot of the London Eye (even from a distance) you would have to seek permission.

    This law would have also been applied to historic buildings, and getting permission from their owners or the architects may prove to be rather difficult, especially as many of them are no longer with us.

    Certain countries already have this law, France, Belgium and Italy already have restrictions on what you can and can’t legally shoot – hands up who has ever done a fashion shoot by the Leaning Tower of Piza? Does that now make you a criminal?

    To me such a change in the law seemed like a ridiculous notion. Taken literally ALL of your self-published holiday snaps on Tumblr, Instagram or The Book of Face COULD have been in breach of copyright.

    Rumours had it that eagle-eyed law firms (you know the ones, the ones who chase ambulances) were looking to use this new instatement to make easy money by trawling the net to find images, offering license agreements for dosh. Those classic family holiday snaps infront of said monument, well, you could have had to pay for those. Where would this end? If you were running a campaign would they license it for a percentage? No one quite knew the extent of this, but what was clear was that no one (other than them) would benefit. I really can’t see how this would have brought about any social good, just a whole heap of bureaucracy and inevitably additional cash!

    I signed, I shared and the petition reached 480,000 signatures.

    Guess what? It worked. The European Parliament voted against changing the law. The Freedom of Panorama was saved! Even the MEP Jean-Marie Cavada, who originally proposed restricting the Freedom of Panorama did a complete U-Turn and told other MEP’s not to vote for it.

    So what’s the point of this post? To tell everybody that collective pressure can affect a change. This is nothing less than democracy in action and whilst these petitions don’t always work, it just shows that if you’re not happy you should do something about it.

    So, next time you’re framing a lovely shot of your kids outside the Neucamp in Barca shirts or you’re arranging a photo shoot promoting Cornwall as a destination with the St Michaels Mount in the background – just take a split second to thank an armchair activist.

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