Did You Know it’s Illegal to Photograph the Eiffel Tower at Night?

Did You Know it’s Illegal to Photograph the Eiffel Tower at Night?

It’s one of the most photographed and recognizable monuments in modern history. But did you know it’s actually illegal to take pictures of the Eiffel Tower at night?

By way of copyright law in the European Union (EU), any artistic work, be it a photo, painting, song, or even building, is protected “for the lifetime of its creator, plus 70 years.”

Common sense does generally prevail, in that many countries operate a “freedom of panorama” law, whereby cityscape photography is permitted on the basis that the “artwork” — or building — is not the main focus of the piece. However, France is one of a number of countries that chose to opt out of the freedom of panorama via a loophole in EU law.

The creator of the Eiffel Tower died back in 1923, meaning the restrictions on photographing it expired in 1993. However, the lights installed on the Tower in 1985 are considered an independent work of art, and thus, the right to legally take photos of the structure at night is still many decades away.

Having said that, there are very few cases in which the copyright holder takes action against someone using a photo of the landmark; the majority of claims are against large corporations.

Lead image credit: Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash.

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56 Comments

Lorretta Clarke's picture

I believe some hotels in London have the right to move u from a distance from their entrance on the pavement. Think i saw a documentary about it.

Ansel Spear's picture

This is not so. They can only move you if you're on their (privately owned) land. Inside shopping arcades are prime examples.

Lorretta Clarke's picture

That maybe true and that was the argument of the photographer but the documentary showed many instances of aggression from the doormen and police being complicit.

Ansel Spear's picture

But it's illegal to do so. A photographer in the UK has every right to take a shot provided s/he's not on private land nor compromising national security. And the police have no right to ask for the film / memcard - whatever their insistence.

In Central London a lot of the seemingly outdoor public space within the city is actually owned by private companies, and they do enforce their lame rules. They ask for permits etc.

Shoot in Canary Wharf area, of a bank. Permits in hand. Stopped by golf cart driving security fella. He needed to double check everything and we weren't to shoot anything until he returned due to security issues.
During that 30min wait, countless tourists made countless images of the building and a TNT delivery lorry parked in a no waiting zone and the driver cleared off.
Security bloke returned. 'Ok, you can make your photos'
5 min later we were back in the taxi to the airport.
Jobsworths, security and private land/buildings.

Lorretta Clarke's picture

Ansel u may be right but often the police r called and they make u move so many feet away from the premises door. U can argue about it at the police station. I prefer not to have my day ruined

I was asked if my photograph of the london bridge at 5 am (sunrise) was for commercial purposes. In case I said it was I imagine I would have been asked for a permit or whatever.

Ansel Spear's picture

London Bridge is not public land - it's one of the properties owned by The City of London. 'They' don't like sticks on the ground. For that you need a permit.

Kirk Darling's picture

It's not illegal to take pictures of the Eiffel Tower at night.

You can pull out your cell phone right in front of a Parisian gendarme and snap away. He won't arrest you. Nor will a French barrister chase you down to your house in Pittsburgh and call for your extradition.

The illumination display is copyrighted and thus the normal rules of copyright law apply. You can photograph it for your private use, but you cannot publish the photograph without permission, which includes posting on social media.

But that is always true of copyrighted work, even your own photographs. We can all send that lawyer we have on speed dial to hunt down anyone who shares our work on social media.

But we don't, unless it's a business making bank on our work. And neither does the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel.

Didn't every photographer already know this?

William Howell's picture

Yes I knew it Kirk, (sniff), but thank you for enlightening the less well informed. (Sniff)

Ansel Spear's picture

I pretty much thought every photographer did. It's been so for many years.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Of course everyone knows it, but somehow this site is publishing more and more click bait...

Usman Dawood's picture

Literally 3 of my friends just said they had no clue about this. It’s actually not that obvious for most people.

thomas Palmer's picture

There is also Notre Dame de Paris, building is 800 years old but the organ has been redone recently, so you are fucked if you want to photograph indoor ... Stupid laws

Elan Govan's picture

Now Jack, this has absolutely nothing what so ever to do with the EU and Brixit, is it? or just another example of uptight french lawmaking.

I remember going to Windsor Castle during the 2012 Olympics, and we were all made to go through this vigorous security checks by the palace staff, and they removed a small Swiss army knife out of my wife's handbag and duly placed it in a plastic bag together with her details. She collected the offending item on the way home.

Apparently the offending Swiss army knife is safe to own outside the palace, just do not try to take it in to the castle.

Ansel Spear's picture

Your Swiss army knife has nothing to do with copyright law, more to do with security. We Brits have had our fair share of people trying to abduct the royals, bomb us to buggery and mow us all down on bridges. Long may the security services remain vigilant.

Elan Govan's picture

As usual, assuming too much when ever a brown face shows up here in a discussion. What a prat. I was making an observation to the author of this article.

Just because I look brown does not mean I do not care about the well being of others. To be fair the staff at Windsor Castle were really professional and mindful of their conduct. Something you could learn from.
Good day.

Philipp Pley's picture

Elan, why are YOU making this about race? At no point was the colour of your skin ever mentioned by anyone other than yourself. Honestly your remarks are so unnecessary and uncalled for.

Usman Dawood's picture

I'm with Philipp on this one, what does your melanin content have anything to do with this discussion?

Elan Govan's picture

You two ought to read the recent report by the EU first. As much as people like to pretend, race is a big part of planet earth's historical shame and headache. Have a good read.

Ask yourself what does "WE BRITS" actually means.

So please don't assume you know me like the back of your hand. Don't assume period.

Every country has its own funny little ways of conducting business and since we are discussing, copyright laws, not every country has the same copyright laws world over. Its better to know the difference before travelling rather than assume.

That is how I keep myself safe every time I travel.

As for the incident at Windsor Castle, my wife is English and she was the one with the Swiss army knife, and I was merely articulating her views.

Good day, and please don't assume. Spend some time reading the EU report. Far more educational than reading my comments here.

Usman Dawood's picture

Brit is a nationality and your skin color had nothing to do with this discussion until you brought it up. You're now going way off the field with your points and talking about things no one actually brought up or discussed.

No one in this specific discussion presumed anything about you we simply pointed out how your skin colour had nothing to do with what we're talking about lol. I don't know where you're getting this context from. Are you mixing up comment threads or talking to multiple people?

Elan Govan's picture

Looks like I have unwittingly hit a raw nerve here, and my comments on copy right is completely ignore, hence the bias.

Have a nice day, I will not be replying to anyone in this article. Better things to do.

Usman Dawood's picture

No nerve you're just arguing against points that you yourself are making up. I've only made one point and that's it. That point is once again, no one in this discussion said anything about your skin color until you mentioned it. It wasn't part of the discussion.

That is still the only point I'm discussing, I don't know why or how you imagined anything other than that.

Elan Govan's picture

Again, I was initially responding to Jack's article until it was hijack. If jack is not happy with my comments, I will reply via private message.

For now, this is not a healthy forum to discuss this issues any further. Good day.

Ansel Spear's picture

WHAT? I'll tell you what 'WE BRITS' actually means: It means any and everybody who lives in the British Isles, no matter their colour, creed, sexuality or religious beliefs.

So please don't, for one minute, assume that I am a white-skinned Anglo Saxon you seem to have stereotyped.

In fact have you considered that actually it's YOU that's turning the discussion into a race rant?

Elan Govan's picture

Anglo Saxons, seriously you want to go that far back. Have a read of the 2000 Race Relation Amendment Act, nothing to do with Anglo Saxons. Enjoy your day. Things to do worthy of my time. Good day.

Ansel Spear's picture

Get over yourself darling.

Elan Govan's picture

Tell that to Stephen Lawrence family. You can contact them via the Met.

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