If you’ve ever visited Paris, you’ve probably taken pictures of the Eiffel Tower. If you’ve done this during the daytime, that’s great. But take a photo at night and you’ve just committed a crime.
In several countries architectural structures are protected by copyright. That means you have to ask permission from the copyright holder to use your own picture in public.
This is also true for the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The famous landmark was built in 1889 which means that it falls within the public domain. However, the light show was added later and this is still protected by copyright.
It may sound absurd, but taking a picture of the Eiffel Tower at night and sharing that online may be copyright infringement. The stance is confirmed by the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, who note the following on their website.
The Eiffel Tower’s website reads:
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).
The citation “Eiffel Tower”, the names of the various services offered on the monument as well as domain names are also registered.
At the heart of the problem is the fact that the light shows are copyrighted. More confusing, if the tower is simply lit, does that constitute infringement? How much is it enforced? Who knows.