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Is the Eiffel Tower Copyrighted?
image Has the city of Paris really copyrighted the Eiffel Tower as it looks lit up at night, meaning that anyone (including a tourist) who takes a picture of the Eiffel Tower at night has to get permission and pay a fee before publishing that picture? As bizarre as it sounds, apparently this is true. Even if you wanted to post your holiday photos of the 'Eiffel Tower by night' on the web, you would technically have to get permission first. The Eiffel Tower itself was built in 1889, and therefore its likeness entered the public domain long ago, but the Parisian authorities sneaked around this fact by copyrighting the lights on the Tower. They did this in 2003. That's why the copyright issue only applies to the Eiffel Tower at night. So technically it's not the tower itself that is copyrighted. It's the lights on the tower. But you can hardly photograph the tower without getting the lights. This is the kind of thing that sounds so stupid you suspect it has to be false, but David-Michel Davies who's written about this over at FastCompany appears to have done his homework, so I'm inclined to believe him. (via J-Walk)
Categories: Law/Police/Crime, Places
Posted by Alex on Thu Feb 03, 2005
Comments (14)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
So Alex, did you get permission from the Parisian authorities to use this photo or are you expecting a nasty email?!?
Posted by Nettie  on  Fri Feb 04, 2005  at  02:09 AM
Yay! Another letter for the "Gallery of Angry Emails!"
(You should really set that up, Alex.)
Posted by PlantPerson  on  Fri Feb 04, 2005  at  07:08 AM
That's really offensive, if true.
Posted by Chadds Ford Prefect  on  Fri Feb 04, 2005  at  11:12 AM
I say go ahead and use the lighted image ALL YOU WANT. If the French get gripy about it just declare war... heck they'd surrender to the RI National Guard or probably even the Boy Scouts for that matter... so really, what are they gonna do about it??? Nada...
Posted by Mark-N-Jen  on  Fri Feb 04, 2005  at  02:17 PM
Copyright traditionally refers to printed material, writings, photographs, movies, etc. As far as I know, it does not cover statues and similar works. However, I do not know the French law on the subject. If so, what about all the photos of "The Thinker" and other statues? Technically, a photo of a statue is a seperate work than the statue itself. A photo of the light pattern on the Eiffel Tower would be, therefore, copyrightable in itself seperate from the light show wouldn't it?
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Sat Feb 05, 2005  at  05:58 PM
If video or photographs are taken from public property, then it's legal to do so. I can take a picture of a McDonald's sign (which is heavily trademarked and copyrighted) from across the street and no copyright infringements were committed. And I can publish that photo in commerce as long as I don't claim that McDonald's is endorsing what I am selling. The same is true for photographing people. Also, a copyright is only good if you are willing to defend it. So, if you post a picture of the Eiffle Tower at night on your web page, they will have to sue you to have it removed. If they don't sue you and they know about it, then they are setting a president that it's ok to "publish" these type of photos. It's all bunk. They are just trying to make a buck. Oh, one more thing, anytime anything is created, it is legally copyrighted. Like this posting. So think twice before you copy and paste these words! 😉
Posted by Mike M.  on  Sat Feb 05, 2005  at  08:08 PM
Christopher, you might find the copyright FAQ at the US copyright office useful:

Granted, it's the US one, but many countries cooperate on these things and have similar rules.

In general, copyright applies to any original art -- written, sculpted, performed, erected, etc, for 70 years (iirc). It used to be that you had to write "copyright" on it.

Musuems claim copyright on ancient items that they own, and this is much more iffy. A recent decision said that photos of flat ancient artwork are not copyrightable, because no new artistic expression was involved.

Imo, lighting the Tower is not much different than painting it a different color, and shouldn't be copyrightable, but I'm neither a lawyer nor a Frenchman.
Posted by cvirtue  on  Tue Feb 08, 2005  at  07:25 AM
Mike M. You just described American copyright law which does not apply to the issue. If someone could explain French copyright law we all would be on better grounds for this discussion. Each nation has its own copyright law and except as provided under international treaty no nation has to follow another nation's law. When in France you have to obey French copyright law, but in America you do not, except as I mentioned where covered by treaty. If in France it is legal to copyright the light pattern on the Eiffel Tower, then printing a photo of it there would be against the law unless proper procedures were followed. Photos printed here fall under American law but since America ratified the copyright treaties, French copyrights must be respected and Federal authorities would prosecute if the French filed a complaint since France also is a member of the copyright treaties.
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Tue Feb 08, 2005  at  04:20 PM
Actually, under the Bern Convention the US and France effectively do have the same copyright law.
Posted by Carl Fink  on  Sun Feb 13, 2005  at  09:15 AM
The copyright is intended to prevent the image of the tower from being used in ways that the owners don't approve. They arn't trying to stop amateurs from taking photos and putting it on their personal web pages. The copyright applies more to commercial uses. Also, the fee goes to the city of Paris, not to some individual or company looking to make a buck.
Posted by Mark  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  09:00 PM
First of all. McDonalds is not copyrighted, it's trademarked and there is a reason for the distinction in intellectual property law. Second, Copyright subsists which means you never had to write "copyright" anywhere near what you were copyrighting. Copyright intentionally applies to an open range of expressions fixed in a tangible medium for at least a transitory duration- so it doesn't "usually apply to written works" etc. Otherwise Copyright could not subsist. Also, what the French government would do if they discovered your infringement and they decided they wanted to do something about it is use the treaty related to intellectual property which the US signed onto along with all EU nations and sue you in court. And the US government would support this because your personal distaste, "Mark-N-Jen", for people you don't even know doesn't make any difference to an international treaty worth millions more to the US than your infringing purpose.

But they won't do anything because they've stated that all they want to do is control how the images are to be used and tourists are still free to take pictures as they please.

Finally, the last two comments were dead on. French copyright law is almost identical to US copyright law except that French IP law tends to give more rights to the artist and take more for the public's right to the this case the SNTE which designed the display.

look for the story about the millenium park in chicago.
Posted by Andrew  on  Mon Feb 28, 2005  at  06:52 PM
some more proof about this issue from fairly authorative sources:

Q : Is the publishing of a photo of the Eiffel Tower permitted?
A : There are no restrictions on publishing a picture of the Tower by day. Photos taken at night when the lights are aglow are subjected to copyright laws, and fees for the right to publish must be paid to the SNTE.
(more info here)
Posted by jeff w  on  Thu Jun 16, 2005  at  02:29 PM
The prohibition only applies to the image of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night time by the new lighting display installed in 2003. That means any photograph taken prior to the installation of that lighting system is not covered by the "copyright" and is therefore able to be published freely in exactly the same way day time photos of the tower are now.
Posted by Tim  on  Sat Jul 09, 2005  at  11:44 PM
As an FYI: A friend of mine just returned from France and of course began uploading his vacation photos and a short video clip showing the Eiffel Tower lit-up... One Facebook friend commented that it's against copyright and we all laughed at how completely stupid that is if it were true -- sure enough, not 15 minutes after the video was posted, he receives a strongly worded email from .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) demanding he remove the images/video at once. This happened one hour ago!

He told them, "Not only have I removed them, I've also removed any and all chances I'll ever visit your piss-hole again, I'll take my camera and tourist dollars where they're welcome."

Posted by Craig Milton  on  Wed Nov 14, 2012  at  11:16 AM
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