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The lightshow on the Eiffel Tower is definitely protected by copyright


Any “self-respecting” tourist in Paris would want to take photographs of the Eiffel Tower day or night either as a background for souvenir self-snaps or as graphic mementoes of La Ville-Lumière’s global icon.

But, horrors, it’s turned out that taking pictures of the famous tower at night is illegal and the unwary photographer could be slapped with a fine! You see, illuminations are an “art work” and reproducing it without permission from the author violates EU copyright law, according to Daily Mail ( l). Moreover, technically speaking, sharing images of the Eiffel Tower on social sites like Facebook is illegal.

Fortunately, the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 so whatever copyright on it will have expired and it is now in the public domain. Besides, the 2001 EU information society directive says that if an EU country so wishes, it can pass a national law whereby the country can charge the photographer for snapping photos of architectural works in public spaces on its territory. But France, like Belgium and Italy, has opted out of incorporating the directive with national jurisprudence.

Here are the restrictions according to Daily Mail which cites as one of its sources the official website of the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE), the company that operates the Eiffel Tower: Various illuminations are subject to author’s rights as well as brand rights. “Usage of these images is subject to prior request from the ‘Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel’.

“The citation ‘Eiffel Tower’, the names of the various services offered on the monument as well as domain names are also registered.”

In other words, there are certain copyright and brand restrictions to the use of photos of the Eiffel Tower most specially illuminated night time photos. The lightshow on the tower is definitely protected by copyright.

SETE’s website confirms, however, that “daytime views from the Eiffel Tower are rights-free.”

Many, but not all, buildings across Europe are protected by various degrees of copyright restrictions. For instance, in Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovenia it’s OK to take photos of public buildings but not for commercial purposes.

In the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany, there are no restriction to taking and sharing photos of public buildings.


Top photo: Eiffel Tower at Night by Mark.thurman92,  CC BY-SA 3.0