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Photos of the Eiffel Tower at night are restricted due to copyright (2017) (petapixel.com)
71 points by sgt 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 68 comments

Classic urban legend.

> 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.



Just to be clear: copyright DOES NOT PREVENT ANYONE from PHOTOGRAPHING the tower at night. It only prevents you from profiting from a photograph that you took of the illuminated tower (and then only if the tower is the main feature of the photograph) without a license agreement from the copyright holder.

This is not supporting either the principle or the consequences of copyright, simply debunking the idea that photographing the tower at night is illegal.

That is different, but doesn't seem less silly.

So what? It doesn't make it any less ridiculous.

I have to agree. These are the type of stupid laws I read that completely turns me off of a country. What other ridiculous laws would I have to endure if I were to visit?

Every countries have stupid laws by the way


Without a source, how can I tell which ones are real?

That doesn't really contradict the article. Paris city council does retain the copyright, they just choose not to enforce it and give a de-facto implied license in certain specific cases.

Why do you say "urban legend"?

Another paragraph from your link says, "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."

This seems to fully justify the headline and opening sentence.

That's no less ridiculous. If it's a public object, I should always be able to take a picture of it and profit off of it. Doesn't matter if I'm a little guy or Getty Images.

Adding photo/filming conditions to places of relevance (even natural places) seem to be common (though a lot of times it related to authorization to be in the place doing the work)

Copyright law is completely bugged. Copyright should last 10 years or the life of the creator. And putting lights on a tower shouldn't be copywritten.

The problem with that is it encourages murder. That's the reason for the lifetime + X years rule.

Putting a variable into the equation was a mistake to begin with. You shouldn't have to look a person up in an encyclopedia to know when a copyright expires. It should be a fixed 20 years, automatic, with no extensions or exceptions, and no ex-post-facto alterations of the terms.

Certainly, I agree. But the parent comment said "10 years or the life of the creator". If copyright expired the day of the creator's death, it would encourage murders. Better to have just "10 years from creation", but much worse to have "10 years or the life of the creator."

Citation requested.

Is there any evidence of this in the legislative history?

France has other unusual photo standards also. Americans traveling to France should be aware that in general you CAN'T photograph an individual in public.


> France has other unusual photo standards also. Americans traveling to France should be aware that in general you CAN'T photograph an individual in public.

Actually I was surprised to learn that in the US you can not only take a photo of another person without their consent, but also publish it.

The line in the US is commercial use. Even in an artistic work, if someone's likeness is in the picture, you have to have their permission to sell it.

> The line in the US is commercial use.

The “line” in the US is more of a complex curve, and commercial use or not is insufficient to make a conclusion either way (for just one common example of conmercial use without subject permission that is allowed, consider journalistic use.)

You can, but you definitely should not share publicly this picture.

Until you leave France, that is.

Unrelated, but France's power in EU results in some weird stuff as well. In order to protect their own wine manufacturers, they've succesfully lobied for a total ban on new wineyards in whole of EU.

When Croatia was scheduled to join EU in July 2013., in the run up to that date its government gave out fat subsidies to anyone who converted their land into a wineyard, because once they joined the EU, game over.

That's a rule that...

a) was introduced in 1725, and carried into the EU at the time of EU formation.

b) was repealed in 2008

c) while it's true france has lobbied to re-introduce the law since then, they have failed so far.

Thanks for sharing, do you have any links about it? My comment is based on what I was told when I visited Croatia couple years ago and asked about all the newly-planted wineyards along the coast.

And you find it OK for people to photograph you without your consent? Unless you are a public figure I can't see why it shouldn't be ilegal.

If I can perceive photons bouncing off of you in public with my eyes, why can't I capture an approximate record of the arrangement of those photons in a digital format?

In the former, I'm storing it in analog form in my mind. In the latter, I'm storing it in digital form on silicon.

If you really don't want to be seen, then don't go in public?

Being seen is not the same as being recorded.

Does your GF mind if you record her in bed without her consent?

Explain her your photons bouncing BS or tell her that if she doesn't want to be recorded she shouldn't undress with someone else in the same room.

It's natural to be curious of others and other things and in the public realm, being able to look at stuff is a basic human right that extends to pictures on the internet. If you engage in society, then society has a right to at least look at you, again only in public spaces.

I believe in privacy. If I'm in my home, a bathroom, a private club or the like then you should not be subject to intrusion or recording without your permission. But I don't have the right to ask someone not to look at me when I am outside on the street and to me it seems weird that anyone would have a problem with that.

Yeah, they have the right to look but not to photograph just like you are allowed to watch a movie but not to record it. If you want a photo of me for your own enjoyment then I may want a fee or I may not want you to have any. Privacy is not only in your own private space/home just like up-skirting is not legal in public spaces.

I find it ok for me to photograph other people without their consent in public.

Why shouldn't anyone be able to record a photograph of whoever (or whatever) they can see in a public place?

If you don't want strangers to see you, don't go out in public.

The public space is not only yours, you know that right? If you want to photograph/record strangers ask for permissions! The public space is not a free zone to abuse other people.

> The public space is not only yours, you know that right?

Yes, of course. That is why I have no right to tell you that you can't photograph what you can see in the public space. You have just as much right to use it as I do.

> The public space is not a free zone to abuse other people.

Taking a photograph of someone in a public space is not "abuse".

The light display is under copyright! But that seems rather untenable. When do the photons emerging from the Eiffel tower sieze to be copyrighted? Would a reflection in a window or puddle be in violation? What about an aerial shot of Paris?

IANAL, but it seems to me a flimsy argument: putting a large, unpreventable artwork in the middle of a public space. IMHO, if you want your copyright to be upheld, the creator needs to show a reasonable amount of effort to limit possible copyright infringement.

> When do the photons emerging from the Eiffel tower sieze to be copyrighted?

When they cease to be recognisable as a pattern in front of a judge.

> Would a reflection in a window or puddle be in violation?

Yes, as long as reasonably recognisable and substantive of the display. Not really any different the mirror in SLR camera taking the picture.

> What about an aerial shot of Paris?

Probably not, as you wouldn't be able to see a distinguishable amount of the lights from an aerial shot. Depends on the resolution.


I'm not sure what you think your opinion adds then tbh.

> IMHO, if you want your copyright to be upheld, the creator needs to show a reasonable amount of effort to limit possible copyright infringement.

For the avoidance of doubt this is not legally true in almost any circumstance in pretty much any country in the world.

> Not really any different the mirror in SLR camera taking the picture.

Pedantic point but the mirror isn't involved when a picture it taken. It flips up out of the way and the light goes directly from the lenses to the sensor/film. The mirror is only there for the viewfinder.

So pictures that show the Eiffel Tower at night will have to be filtered by the glorious upload filters that were gifted to us by EU, Axel Voss, Germany and France yesterday. And watercolors of the Eiffel Tower at night will be filtered, too. Accidentally.

For commercial use.

As opposed to Sweden where it is illegal to post pictures of public art installations online regardless of commercial use.

If someone wants to read more, this artice contains several links: https://alj.artrepreneur.com/copyright-public-art/

*for commercial use. The article says quotes "Technically taking the picture is also illegal" but every other source in the article says it is not against the copyright law to simply take a picture for personal use.

Given that it's due to the lights, with the day time image usage being fine, I wonder if that means you could simulate a (new) photorealistic nighttime view based on a day time image and post that subtly different image without breaking the rules?!

Obviously wouldn't be a photograph, so isn't going to help tourists, but might make enough of a point that they give up opposing it.

I thought it was completely fine to photograph anything that is visible publicly. Or is that principle different for each country? The problem with this approach is if someday it became possible to create photographs from human memory, would they want to force copyright on people's brains too?

From the article:

Most countries have a “freedom of panorama” law, which allows you to photograph a skyline and include copyrighted buildings in your shot. So while you’d be perfectly okay capturing a photo of Big Ben in London, you just couldn’t go off and build a brand new version in your backyard without infringing copyright.

But the EU allows countries to opt-out of including this freedom of panorama clause in their copyright laws. France has chosen to utilize this exception.

It's different for each country, though France's law is fairly unusual here.

If you try to take pictures of buildings under construction in the US, state or federal facilities, or airports, you'll find yourself in hot water pretty quickly.

Not sure why this was downvoted twice... It's a fact, you will get hassled in many places in the US for taking pictures in public. It may not be illegal, but you will definitely still get angry people with guns in your face, and potentially arrested.

Here is a link to articles that discusses 'property release' in relation to commercial photography[0][1] and[0] includes a list of several other famous properties which enjoy similar protections as Eiffel tower does.

[0] https://help.author.envato.com/hc/en-us/articles/36000047240... [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photography_and_the_law#Privat...

/me wonders whether the copyright extends to very precise drawings of the Eiffel Tower at night. Some drawings are close to photo-realistic and will look exactly like a photo when presented at the lower resolution used on the web. If such a drawing looks just like the real thing it will therefore be indiscernible from a photograph. Would such an image be subject to copyright claims? What if the artist switches around a few details, some braces which go top-left to bottom-right in the real thing go top-right to bottom-left in the drawing?

What happens to me if I photograph it and live in another country?

Can France extradite me?

France would request your extradition. The country you are in would actually extradite you.

The last scenes of the first season of Star Trek Discovery had a shot of Paris at night (with lots of new futuristic buildings befitting a 23rd century setting)

The Eiffel Tower was dark. Looked very odd.

If the movie makers did this to avoid copyright infringement, why then couldn't they have created their own lighting pattern for the shot? If the very concept of putting any lights on the tower at night is the copyright, that's a copyright deserving neglect at every opportunity -a law begging a thumb to the nose.

That's what confused me. They did light it up as a passing shuttle's headlights briefly played over it, perhaps that was the choice, but it looked really out of place.

So what would happen if you took a picture at night and digitally changed the light display to be something different? Is that a copy or not?

TLDR: The light display on the Eiffel Tower is an artistic work, and is thus protected by copyright. We'll legally be able to photograph the Eiffel Tower with it's artistic light display in 1985+70 = 2055.

I've really always considered copyright timelines of more than a decade to be way too long, honestly. Same deal with patents. Once the initial impact of the work is concluded, I don't see any reason not to open it to public domain. Where did this copyright timeline come from? Who decided on 70 years in France?

Have exponential increase in renewal fees. Most things would drop out of copyright after 10 years, but you could pay $1k a year to renew for year 10, $2k for year 11, $1m for year 20, $1b for year 30, etc.

Same with patents.

The article says copyright expires 70 years from the death of the artist, not from the date the work was created. I don't know who is considered the creator of the lights though. Is it different if 'the creator' is an organisation?

Yes, if said work was for hire, it counts as 70 years from creation and not 70 years from dissolution of organisation requesting the work.

When was creation? If they change out the light pattern for a new one, or add blink tags to it or have it light up in a playful show involving multi-colours and timed to some inspiring music is that a new creation?

I'd guess that these aren't large enough differences to afford a new date but I almost feel resigned to the idea that this is exactly what will happen.

> If they change out the light pattern for a new one, or add blink tags to it or have it light up in a playful show involving multi-colours and timed to some inspiring music is that a new creation?

It would depend on how substantive the changes were. But most of your proposals are probably sufficient, yes.

That's not necessarily the case for compound works in Europe.

For instance, in the UK the copyright in a film only expires as you say in the event that the film does not have a director, screenplay, authored dialogue or composed music. If it has any of them them the countdown begins at the end of the year in which the last of them dies (which is fifty years in this instance). Also worth noting that even though the film may go out of copyright in this scenario, the script/dialogue does not until seventy years after the death of the writer. Work for hire is irrelevant to that consideration.

Film and architectural works are special cases, not the general rule. Not all compound works enjoy individual copyright term extension.


All copyright owners are greedy penny pinches. There's no special law for the Eiffel Tower, this is how copyright works by default.

Last week The Vessel opened in New York City. It's an enormous sculpture you can climb, six stories tall, takes up half a block and it's clearly visible from Jersey. It's illegal to take pictures of it without paying royalties for the next 109 years and 51 weeks, because that's what US copyright law says.

The copyright law is a red herring.

There shouldn't be any copyright requested or registered, and if one was awarded automatically, the state could have re-released it into the public domain.

The "copyright law" merely helps enforce this -- it doesn't dictate a monument should have a copyright, nor that the owner of the copyright should ask for money for taking pictures of it.

The state can't release it into the public domain, because the state doesn't hold the copyright. The artist, Pierre Bideau does.

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