Publishing Photos of the Eiffel Tower is (Technically) Illegal

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    The likeness of the Eiffel Tower had been in the public domain up until 2003 when it was suddenly repossessed by the city of Paris. SNTE, the company in charge of maintaining the Eiffel Tower, upgraded it with a beautiful lighting display that filled the night sky. They also copyrighted this display design. So, what does this mean for you as a photographer?

    Photographing the Eiffel Tower is Illegal

    Every photographer, both amateur and professional, should have a working knowledge of copyright laws. We are artistic creators and knowing how these laws work is just as important as knowing how to properly expose a frame. These are laws that should be both understood and respected.

    In short: it is not legal to publish images of the Eiffel Tower, taken at night, without permission from SNTE. While this rule applies to anyone with a camera, the Director of Documentation for SNTE has stated in the past that they were not interested in banning amateur photographers from posting images of the tower at night on their personal websites. This is simply a way for them to manage the commercial usage of these images. I will also point out that the profits made from SNTE actually go back to the city of Paris, who can continue to make it a beautiful place for us all to snap away at.

    More Facts About the Eiffel Tower You Might Not Know

    • In the early 1960′s, a deal was made to temporarily move the Eiffel Tower to Montreal, Canada. However, the company who owned the tower refused, in fear that it would not be returned to France.
    • From 1925-1934, the tower was used as a giant billboard by French car company Citroën. The signage was later removed when the company went bankrupt due to massive electric bills (incidentally, Citroën recovered well and celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2009.)
    • In 1912, Francois Reichelt, a tailor and inventor, made an attempt to jump from the Eiffel Tower using a custom made parachute. It didn’t work. Although he had successfully trialled prototypes of his invention much closer to the ground, on this occasion his parachute failed to deploy and he fell to his death.
    • It almost disappeared from the face of the Earth forever. 20 years after being constructed the Eiffel Tower was almost dismantled for scrap metal. However, the government decided against it when they realized it could be used for communication and broadcasting during times of war.


    Jerroid Marks is founder of Band of Light, photographer and world traveler.



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