bikeriderlondon /
6 November 2014Copyright

Night-time Eiffel Tower photos ‘breach copyright’

A clause in EU copyright law could result in people photographing the Eiffel Tower at night facing a copyright infringement lawsuit despite it being a public building and the architect’s copyright having expired.

According to the independent EU Observer website, photographers taking pictures of France’s most famous landmark may be in breach of copyright due to the later addition of lights to its façade.

The clause is part of the European Union’s 2001 information society directive, which says that photos of architectural projects in public spaces can be taken free of charge.

But the clause is optional and because France, Belgium and Italy decided not to transpose it into their national laws it has created potential problems.

The Eiffel Tower, in France’s capital city Paris, was first opened in 1889. Its architect Stephen Sauvestre died in 1919, meaning copyright has long since expired.

However, according to the official  Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffelwebsite, it now considers any illumination of the tower to be protected by the copyright of the artist concerned.

The optional rule extends to the buildings of the European Parliament and other government buildings in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Dimitar Dimitrov, who works for Wikipedia’s umbrella company Wikimedia, told the website that “every website of every MEP [member of the European Parliament] that uses [an image of] the parliament building on it is a copyright infringement in the sense of the law.”

On the Eiffel Tower Dimitrov added: “The lightshow is protected by copyright.”

The rule differs from member state to member state but, according to EU Observer, may not change any time soon.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, previously asked Günther Oettinger, the new commissioner for the digital economy, to put forward ideas on the digital single market.

The commission has not confirmed whether it will include copyright reform.

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