Street Photography

Street Photography: Can we use photos of buildings that we take commercially? For example for advertising?

Empress Maria Theresa and Frederick the Great were contemporaries and rivals on the battlefield. What unites them are their castles: the Empress had alterations and extentions made to Schönbrunn Palace, while The King of Prussia had Sanssouci Palace built in Potsdam. Today, both castles are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Yet Austria and Germany have differing legislation when it comes to the use of photos of these buildings.

First of all, Schönbrunn Palace: a credit card company used photos it had taken of the palace and the gloriette for an advertisment. The owner of Schönbrunn’s grounds and buildings is (indirectly) the Republic of Austria. Through a private company the Republic of Austria took the credit card company to court and applied for an injunction to prohibit the use of the pictures. Austria said it spends millions every year on the maintenance of the castle and on advertising, contributing to the palaces’s good name. The commercial exploitation of the photos requires approval by the Republic.

The Austrian Supreme Court didn’t agree and allowed the credit card company to use its photos for advertising. It was irrelevant that a subsidiary was investing millions of euros every year in keeping the palace and its parks beautiful.

The German Supreme Court, however, ruled differently. The “Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz“, a public trust in the states Berlin and Brandenburg, took action against an agency that has used its photos of Sanssouci Palace and its parks commercially. The court found that this was not permissible.

Both decisions were made in the same year, in 2013. So what is the difference between the court rulings on Street Photography?

In an article for the art magazine Kaleidoscope, lawyer Georg Huber highlights restrictions on the use of photos of buildings and explains whe the use of the photo of Schönbrunn was permissible while the use of the picture of Prussian castle wasn’t.

Kaleidoscope 2.17: Street Photography