Why you can’t take pictures of the Eiffel Tower by night

Sharing a photo of the Eiffel Tower by night on social media, without paying for it, could get you into big trouble. Even if it’s just a holiday memento. Ooh la la…

Copyright protects the use of depictions of (copyrighted) buildings. But what if you take a photograph during a city trip, and the photo includes buildings that are subject to the copyright of, e.g. the architect? This is where “freedom of panorama” comes in.

Freedom of panorama is a provision in copyright law that permits taking photographs which are permanently located in a public place, without infringing on any copyright that may otherwise subsist in such works.

But then there is France. The French did not incorporate the freedom of panorama-clause in its copyright laws. This means that in France you will still need permission to share or sell photos of buildings protected by copyright.

But the Eiffel tower is not copyrighted, right? Wrong. Well, partly wrong. While the copyright on the Eiffel tower itself has expired, the lights that currently decorate the French landmark were placed only in 1985. And the lights can be regarded as a work of art, and are, as such, still subject to copyright protection.

So, Eiffel tower by day: not copyrighted. Eiffel tower by night: copyrighted! This means that if you share a photo of the Eiffel tower ‘by night’ online, you may face a fine. In theory, that is.

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Erwin Hauër

“Hoop is geen strategie.”



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