When people get back from holidays one of the first things many do is upload their best images to Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other personal sites online. But what many people don’t know, is that just because you can take a photo of something doesn’t mean it is legal to share it. Due to the ridiculous nature of copyright laws, one of the world’s most well known, and highly photographed landmarks, is actually subject to this kind of Kafkaesque scenario.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris, is probably the most highly photographed part of the world’s most popular city for tourists. It would be no exaggeration to say that every year tens of millions of photos are taken of this landmark and then uploaded to the internet. It is a shame then that a significant portion of them are actually illegal…
It is illegal to share photos of the Eiffel Tower at night.
The problem is this. There are laws in France and the European Union which make it illegal to photograph or film copyrighted artistic works, something originally designed to protect movies and similar content. However, through some egregious oversight, the company which designed and built the lights which cover the Eiffel Tower managed to get their installation to be declared as a similar “work of art”, with full copyright protections.
This has been confirmed by the official website of the tower, which explains:
“The Eiffel Tower, built in 1889, falls within the public domain. Daytime views from the Eiffel Tower are rights-free. However, its various illuminations are subject to author’s rights as well as brand rights. Usage of these images is subject to prior request from the "Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel" (the Eiffel Tower’s operating company, or SETE).”
Effectively, this means that if a tourist shares images of the Eiffel Tower at night without the prior permission of the SETE, they are committing a crime and could be forced to pay a fine. Luckily for tourists, they have safety in numbers. Due to the millions of photos uploaded annually, it would be all but impossible for the SETE to actually prosecute them. Nonetheless, this stands as an obvious example of overreach of poorly thought out copyright laws in the digital world.