Stage 2
11:15 - 11:45
Freedom of Panorama - Why Free Knowledge Matters in Africa

Short thesis

What is Freedom of Panorama, how does it affect you, what is being done to increase people rights, and how can you get involved? These are questions will be discussed with Douglas Scott from Wikimedia South Africa. For the past four years Wikimedia South Africa has sought to give members of the public the right to take photographs of public works of art and share them digitally. An activity that despite popular assumptions about copyright most people in Africa do not have the right to do.


Freedom of Panorama is the right by members of the public to take photographs of public works of art and share them over the internet. Public monuments such as sculptures, paintings, the facades of buildings and even national monuments are, in many countries, inadvertently covered by copyright. This means that people can be fined or prevented from taking photographs of these public works and sharing them over the internet.

This is especially problematic in the digital age when so many people share such pictures over the internet on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia. Wikimedia South Africa encountered this problem in 2012 when running a photographic competition to get pictures of national monuments for use on Wikipedia. Pictures of recently built monuments celebrating the fight against apartheid were, due to outdated and poorly written copyright law, effectively banned from being shared over the internet. However pictures of much older colonial era monuments were freely allowed as their copyright had expired.

Wikimedia South Africa felt that this was a perverse situation that both prevented people from celebrating the country’s more recent history but also unintentionally criminalised members of the public whilst serving no positive purpose for society.  

Since 2014 Douglas Scott has led Wikimedia South Africa’s efforts to change the South African Copyright Act to include a Freedom of Panorama clause. ears of engaging in public participation processes, giving testimony to parliament, and engaging in other advocacy efforts have resulted in some success. In this session Douglas will discuss what Ghana can learn from the South African experience in order to allow people to freely share pictures and renderings of public works of art whilst also providing copyright protections.