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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55 Comments

Previous comments
Elan Govan's picture

Time for you to get over yourself mate. Your presumption is staggering. Go and have a chat with someone.

It was not always that case. I remember the first time seeing the Queen, I was maybe 10 feet away from her, the Duke, the PM and there really was no security for them.

Color Thief's picture

If you don’t know the difference between “x is protected by copyright law” and “taking photos of x is illegal” you probably shouldn’t be publishing articles about the law.

user-156929's picture

He's a millennial and British. He knows everything! ;-)

You really put something this Asinine in print?
No code sections, no legal references to check out?
Just an interpretation that is shallow and incomplete.

Yes and that's a shame ! As a french line producer, on a show we've just produced I had to erase the Eiffel Tour in post production just because the rights were insanely expensive : €15.000 world wide for 2 minutes. I'm sure photographs won't have to pay that much but the idea of paying rights a country's icon is totally counter productive just because WE DO the advertising.

Mark James's picture

One big reason to never give any of my tourist dollars to france. Can you take pictures in Italy? The EU might just be an over regulated bust for me. We have a trip planned for next year, but I'd rather go somewhere I don't have to worry about taking and using pictures.

Rob Mitchell's picture

It's been mentioned here a lot. Inaccurate and misleading headline.
There are lot of buildings covered by copyright. Here in Belgium, the Atomium is the famous one. Tourist snaps, fine. Use it for any commercial use and you'll get an invoice in the post.
Did a shoot in Paris about 10 years ago, on a bridge and featuring the bridge. The architect wanted €10k for the pleasure! The client really wanted the bridge in the shoot so we struck a deal for half that. Free money for the bloke too, gutting but that's the law.

Oh the irony.

Net Poser's picture

Over 5 million posts on Instagram. Many at night
https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/eiffeltower/top/

Spy Black's picture

The Empire State building is also copyrighted. You can't sell images of it without paying a royalty.

Color Thief's picture

Maybe you can explain, then, 17 U.S. Code § 120 - Scope of exclusive rights in architectural works:

"The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place."

…or perhaps you, like many, are confusing issues of copyright with those of trademarks,

Spy Black's picture

Perhaps so, I don't really know for sure. I do remember reading something along the lines of the Empire State owners/managers having some kind of legal right to want a piece of your pie if you sell pics of the building for profit.

Well done, good clickbait. But it's wrong. It is NOT illegal to photograph the Eiffel Tower at night. It is technically illegal to *publish* a photograph of it at night with the lights on (commercially or not), but sharing it for non commercial purposes is tolerated and will not put you into trouble. At least it never has until now.
Amateur Fstoppers are welcome in Paris day and night !

Mick Ryan's picture

You’re a bit confused. Anyone can take photos of the tower. It’s ilegal to use the iamges in commercial work without the consent of the artist who created the lightshow. Anyone else can use the photos.

Can someone from Fstoppers either edit this article or just delete it entirely. The article is misleading - it's not illegal to take photos of the Eiffel tower at night.

It's not illegal to TAKE pictures of the Eiffel tower at night, it's illegal to sell or to publish them without autorisation ...

cameramanDop Shanghai Hong Kong's picture

You can take a picture, but can't use it to make money. That's not the same.

Karsten Helmholz's picture

The illuminated Eiffel Tower has been the go-to choice when teaching people about copyright in photography and the related pitfalls since the 1990 and 1992 court rulings that established the night time illumination as a work of art. The 2005 decision by the French government to not opt for the freedom of panorama changed this, at least from a strictly legal perspective. With freedom of panorama not in place, it is now technically also illegal to photograph the tower illumination (Source: Rau, Wolfgang: "Recht für Fotografen" [Law for Photographers], Rheinwerk, 3rd ed., 2017, pp. 148).
BUT even the SETE (Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel https://sete.toureiffel.paris/en/sete) says on the Eiffel Tower website (https://www.toureiffel.paris/en/business/use-image-of-eiffel-tower):

"THE TOWER ILLUMINATED
Controlled use

The various illuminations of the Eiffel Tower (golden illumination, twinkling, beacon and events lighting) are protected.
The use of the image of the Eiffel Tower at night is therefore subject to prior authorisation by the SETE. This use is subject to payment of rights, the amount of which is determined by the intended use, the media plan, etc.

Views of the Eiffel Tower taken by private individuals for private use do not require prior agreement. However, professionals must contact our teams, who will inform them of the conditions of use governing images."

This clearly states that from their point of view [sic] photography for private use is permitted. However this still leaves the question of what exactly a professional is and if publishing the photo on revenue based social media sites like Facebook and/or Instagram is considered professional use.

[Edited for clarity]

user-206807's picture

It is not forbidden (or illegal) to photograph the Eiffel Tower at night.
It is forbidden to photograph the illumination of the Eiffel tower because it is protected by copyright.
When there is no illumination, or during a black-out, you can take any pictures you want…

https://www.toureiffel.paris/en/business/use-image-of-eiffel-tower

Karsten Helmholz's picture

Good point. It`s not about the time, but the lights. I just assumed it is illuminated every night. I will edit my post.

It's not illegal taking picture is illegal the commercial use of photos of the monuments as for Colosseum in Italy or others across the continent

Hi,
the title of this article is wrong.
"Did You Know it’s Illegal to Photograph the Eiffel Tower at Night?" --> false !

What is saying the law ? You are not permitted to SELL pictures of Eiffel Tower taken at night without asking permission to the creator of the lighting, who owns the artistic rights, but you are absolutely allowed to take photographs of Eiffel Tower at night. There is a difference between the acting of photographing, the artistic part, and the business. So the right title is "Did You Know it’s Illegal to sell photographs of the Eiffel Tower taken at Night?"

Don't worry, police will not come to you if you are photographing Eiffel Tower at night, because you are allowed to do. The lighting is copyrighted by its artist, like some monuments ... paintings ... etc

Regards

"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.”

Wrong! This is not EU law, this is French law. In most European countries there is the freedom of panorama.

In France in fact every single building is copyrighted. So in case of the Eiffel tower rather the reverse is true: They explicitly allow you to take and publish pictures of daylight pictures.

From https://www.toureiffel.paris/en/business/use-image-of-eiffel-tower

DAYLIGHT VIEWS OF THE TOWER
Free user

The image of the Eiffel Tower by day falls within the public domain: its use is rights-free, and may therefore be reproduced without prior authorisation by the SETE, the managing company of the image of the Eiffel Tower on behalf of the Mairie de Paris.

THE TOWER ILLUMINATED
Controlled use

The various illuminations of the Eiffel Tower (golden illumination, twinkling, beacon and events lighting) are protected.
The use of the image of the Eiffel Tower at night is therefore subject to prior authorisation by the SETE. This use is subject to payment of rights, the amount of which is determined by the intended use, the media plan, etc.

Views of the Eiffel Tower taken by private individuals for private use do not require prior agreement. However, professionals must contact our teams, who will inform them of the conditions of use governing images.