Everyone who has been to Paris has made a couple of selfies with the Eiffel Tower. I mean, how could you not? It’s a super famous landmark visible from over lots and lots of spots in Paris. But, is photographing the Eiffel Tower actually legal?

As discussed in the video it’s a kind of weird situation. We’re dealing with two laws covering the subject of copyright.

European Copyright Law

The first of the two laws involved in this situation is the European copyright law stating that the creator of a piece of work, in this case Gustave Eiffel, is owner of the Copyright as long as he is alive and an additional 70 years.

As a side note; I am aware that Mr Eiffel did not design the Eiffel tower himself. He bought the rights to the patent of the design thus he is the copyright holder of the tower.

The copyright prevents everybody from publishing or creating a recreation of the work. This includes miniatures, painting or photographs.

Freedom of panorama

You can imagine it to be very hard to take pictures in public with all buildings and structures protected under copyright rule. That’s why the Freedom of panorama was passed into law. The freedom of panorama allowed everybody to take pictures of everything that is permanently situated in public. Thus taking a picture of, for instance, the Eye of London is now very much a possibility. France however did not pass that law.

But how does this all add up?

Gustave Eiffel died in 1923. Adding the additional 70 years means that the copyright expired in 1993. Thus all the miniature Eiffel Towers you can buy are in fact legal. In 1985 however the lights were installed on the Eiffel Tower rendering every recreation during the night illegal.

So; in short. During the day, it’s okay. At night it’s very much illegal.

Personal vs commercial use

There is a difference in law concerning the use of the photograph. In 2016 a law passed that stated it was legal to publish pictures of the copyrighted work (the Eiffel Tower) as long as it was for personal use. If you want to sell it. Well, bad luck. That is still very much illegal.

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