The flashy light displays of the Eiffel Tower broadcast across Paris each evening, beckoning visitors to the city’s most famous landmark. But a little-known piece of legality is making the rounds and is sure to dampen the mood of camera-toting tourists. Condé Nast Traveler recently reported that it’s actually illegal to photograph the Eiffel Tower at night.
This may seem ridiculous to the average tourist — this massive structure is among the most well-known and photogenic locations in the world. But the tower is officially classified as a work of art, and due to European Copyright Law, it remains under the domain of the creator, Gustave Eiffel, until seventy years after his death.
Well-informed photo-hounds are quick to point out that Gustave Eiffel died in 1923, meaning that those rights would have expired in 1993. This is true — but in 1985, the tower’s now-famous light show was installed. Its creator, Pierre Bideau, still maintains rights to the light show and any piece of work depicting it.
If you absolutely must post of photo of your nighttime jaunt to the Eiffel Tower on Instagram, the proper way to go about it is to contact La Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel and obtain rights to publish your photograph. You’ll have to pay for those rights, of course. But because the copyright law is aimed at commercial use, personal Instagrammers and photo collectors generally shouldn’t worry about anyone coming after them and demanding that they take down their photo. If you care to err on the safe side, you can add this credit to your Instagram post: “By SETE — Illuminations Pierre Bideau.”
Or you could just use this as another reason to keep your cell phone in your pocket and enjoy the experience without having to document it.