Just saying: If you thought I fell for that spin last week that went along the lines of “it’s against the law to take a picture of the Eiffel Tower at night” — well, no, I didn’t.
Let’s first get things first here, first.
A good summary of the case being claimed is this:
Although the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889, placing it in the public domain by virtue of its age, the light show was added to the tower later and is subject to copyright laws. As such, it’s technically illegal to share pictures of the tower’s light show on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and other platforms, even if it’s your own, original photo. The same rules apply for other famous landmarks in Italy, Belgium, and France. The Atomium in Belgium, for example, is also protected under copyright.
That is pretty consistent with what the folks over at the “Tour Eiffel” (as they call it in Canadian) say as well.
But okay, that — the claim of right — was really not first things, then, right? First things was, if you read very closely, that the article above refers to places with names like “Italy, Belgium and France.” I don’t know what the law is in Italy, Belgium or France, or even how copyright in these faraway lands differs from regular American copyright. (Evidently, this Tour Eiffel is actually located in one of these foreign countries.) But based on how I’m seeing this story treated, it appears to be comparable enough to what we know about regular (American, that is) copyright that, being Americans, we can blow right past that and start poking around at this story.
This is, first of all, not so much news. Here’s a post from that very fine poker of the pokable, Mike Masnick at TechDirt that is almost ten years old (February 2005):
Is The Eiffel Tower Copyrighted?
from the wait-a-minute… dept
Well, here’s the latest in a series of bizarre stories about intellectual property concepts gone ridiculous. Apparently, the city of Paris retook possession of the Eiffel Tower in 2003 and decided that they’d had enough of its likeness being in the public domain. So, what do you do? You change the lighting on it, copyright the new light display and voila, all nighttime photos of the Eiffel Tower are now illegal without a license. This serves what beneficial purpose exactly? It’s hard to see how a photograph of a building that can be seen for miles around could be copyrighted in any way or what that could possibly serve any legitimate intellectual property purpose. It certainly sounds too bizarre to be true.
And it pretty much is. But I am saving the punchline for a minute. Read More…