I’ve broken the law. I’m not a robber. I’ve never hurt anyone. But on a trip to Paris I did break the law. I took pictures of the Eiffel Tower at night during its spectacular light show. Then I published them on Facebook.
I’m not going to jail. At least I hope not. But technically I did break the law.
That’s because, as Snopes explains it, “Distributing photographs of the night-lit Eiffel Tower is a violation of the artist’s copyright.”
The tower itself is in the public domain. Daytime photos are fine. No problem with snapping all the shots you would like. But the dazzling light show presented multiple times every night is legally owned and copyrighted by lighting engineer Pierre Bideau.
The website of Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel – the company that owns and operates the tower – specifically states, “The views from the Eiffel Tower are rights-free. Permission and rights must be obtained from the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel for the publication of photographs of the illuminated Eiffel Tower.”
Now, just so you know, no one has ever been prosecuted for taking nighttime shots of the Tower’s light show. The potential problem comes from publishing the pictures. Even then there is no record of any one being taken to court for publishing a picture of the lights.
Still, to be safe, I’m just using a daytime photo to accompany this article.