Posting pictures of illuminated Eiffel Tower is illegal

by Anshul
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a city with a tower in the distance

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What’s that now?! It is true. Publishing photos of the illuminated Eiffel Tower, without obtaining the permission from the operating Company, is illegal.

Copyright laws give the original creator exclusive rights to its sale and distribution, for their lifetime + 70 years (as per European Copyright Laws). Gustav Eiffel, the creator of Eiffel Tower died in 1923, so his creation returned to ‘public domain’ in 1993. Here’s the wrinkle – Pierre Bideau’s artistic rendition, the tower’s lighting/light-show whent up in 1985 and is still covered under the same copyright law. When the tower is lit up after dark or lights up and shimmers for 5 minutes every hour, from sunset to 1:00 AM, technically speaking, those pictures and videos cannot be published without permission.

The company that operates Eiffel tower, ‘Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel’, has specific language about this legality;

The views from the Eiffel Tower are rights-free. Permission and rights must be obtained from the “Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel” (the Operating Company, or SETE) for the publication of photos of the illuminated Eiffel Tower.

The concept of public domain has blown up with social media – as the beauty of the tower gets captured and published millions of times, over every media channel available to mankind. I have never heard of tourists being sued over this copyright law, so its safe to assume that it is in place to protect against commercial use. Unbeknownst, I have posted several pictures of the lit up tower in the years gone by.

In Summary, you can publish pictures of the Eiffel Tower clicked during daytime. However, you can capture the illuminated Eiffel Tower, but CANNOT publish them.

This story has been doing the media rounds in last few days and I first read about it on CN Traveler. Here’s a video discussing the copyright legality around this matter;


As a tourist, what do you make of this? Share with a comment below.


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