Why Photos of the Eiffel Tower at Night are Illegal

You can almost never find videos or photos of the Eiffel Tower at night on stock sites. Why is this? Because the Eiffel Tower is copyrighted when those lights are twinkling in the night sky. This 4-minute video from Half as Interesting explains why.

European Union copyright law states that an artistic work (that could be a photo, video, song, or building) is protected during the lifetime of its creator, plus another 70 years.

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.

The copyright owner and creator of the Eiffel Tower died in 1923, so in 1993 the image of the Eiffel Tower entered into the public domain. That’s why Las Vegas has its own Eiffel Tower, built in 1999.

A legal copy of the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas, USA. (Photo by Jürgen Matern and licensed under CC-BY-SA)

But the lights were not installed until 1985 and, since they’re considered an artistic work, they are well within their copyright protection period.

The same applies for the Louvre and Rome’s main train station. While no one has ever gone to court for a night-time Eiffel Tower snap, that could change at any time.

“Technically taking the picture is also illegal, but it’s the sharing part that will land you in hot water,” Metro writes. “If you want to publish the image to social media you must gain permission from the ‘Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel’ (the Eiffel Tower’s operating company).”

We previously wrote about this same topic back in 2014.