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Eiffel tower repossessed
February 3, 2005 9:06 AM   Subscribe

It is no longer legal to publish current photographs of the Eiffel Tower at night without permission. This copyright crap is getting out of hand. <via Kottke>
posted by spock (51 comments total)

 
Well on the plus side the profits do go to the city of Paris. Don't the Empire State Building and a few other buildings in NYC have rules about who can use it for a commercial project?
posted by riffola at 9:14 AM on February 3, 2005


The first I heard of the Eiffel Tower being copyrighted was when Maxis, the company the makes The Sims et. al., was explaining why the Eiffel Tower wasn't one of the famous monuments you could put into your cities in SimCity 4.

That almost made sense... but this seems over the top. So you can't take a picture of the Paris skyline now and sell it? What about painting it?

(I know, the Paris "skyline" basically IS the Eiffel Tower, but that's why I wonder.)
posted by BoringPostcards at 9:19 AM on February 3, 2005


Here in the Great White North, it's Olympic organizers who are the screamers when it comes to "protecting" the non-commercialization (*snarf*) of the IOC's symbols.

When the Calgary Winter Games started their publicity, the organizers fired off thousands of letters to any business in the nation with an "Olym" in their name, or five rings on their business's logo. Here in Ottawa, it came to a wonderful head when a little Greek guy who owned a restaurant called "The Olympian" was ordered to change his business's name.

The Olympian has been in Ottawa for decades. He ordered the Calgary lawyers to do something biologically impossible to themselves and informed them _his_ restaurant's name had nothing to do with the Games. It was named after him -- he's from Olympus, Greece. The backlash publicity that rolled back into the Calgary law offices warmed the hearts of little-guy fans everywhere.

Sadly, the Whistler legal pitbulls have just launched the same process in conjunction with the 2010 hillside watersports (you have to know Whistler's weather) so it doesn't look like anything's changed.

(Over to column 2: "Fair and Balanced" Faux News)
posted by Mike D at 9:19 AM on February 3, 2005


hmmm...but what if the lights go out, then it's ok to snap away? What if someone accidentally leaves the lights on throughout the day - what then?

I think we should invade.
posted by j.p. Hung at 9:25 AM on February 3, 2005


What if i publish the photo during the day instead?

(seriously though, it IS getting out of hand)
posted by lemonfridge at 9:25 AM on February 3, 2005


As a result, it's no longer legal to publish current photographs of the Eiffel Tower at night without permission. Technically, this applies even to amateurs. When I spoke to the Director of Documentation for SNTE, Stéphane Dieu, via phone last week, he assured me that SNTE wasn't interested in prohibiting the publication of amateur photography on personal Web sites. "It is really just a way to manage commercial use of the image, so that it isn't used in ways we don't approve," said Mr. Dieu.
posted by nthdegx at 9:26 AM on February 3, 2005


OK, I've got the solution to the mounting deficit...let's copyright the US Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial. If you want to photograph anything, you need a day license for $10. Given the number of tour groups that wonder around, that should net us a couple of thousand a day all summer long.

OK, seriously. What are all those little guys who sell those plastic models of the tower in those stalls along the Seine going to do? Is the French government going to seize them in attempt to put the smackdown on unauthorized use? Or only if they stick a little set of lightbulbs on them, so it seems like it's at night?

And why only at night? Who is this SNTE? It says here that " The Tower belongs to the city of Paris, which contracted the operations to a limited company, the Société Nouvelle d'exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SNTE)." But what do they do really?
posted by beezy at 9:34 AM on February 3, 2005


This is ridiculous.
posted by shawnj at 9:35 AM on February 3, 2005


They're not interested yet. I bet if you photographed the the Eiffel tower, and placed it on a "I hate Paris" weblog, you'd hear from them soon enough.

It's sad that a city which is known for its art is stopping people from artistic representations of its most famous landmark. If I had any balls, I'd paint the tower at night (with lights) and sell those pictures in full view of the SNTE.

Also, whats to stop somebody using photoshop to move the lights around. Would that get round the copyright issues.
posted by seanyboy at 9:36 AM on February 3, 2005


"It is really just a way to manage commercial use of the image, so that it isn't used in ways we don't approve," said Mr. Dieu.

*looks at Goatse, contemplating . . .*

*looks at Eiffel Tower, contemplating . . .*

*looks back at Goatse . . .*

Hmmmm . . .
posted by Ryvar at 9:36 AM on February 3, 2005


LOOKING AT STUFF WITHOUT PAYING IS STEALING, COMMIES!

STOP LOOKING AT ME, YOU FREAKS!1!1!!1
posted by orthogonality at 9:41 AM on February 3, 2005


I am tempted to go to law school just to get the credentials to fight dumb things like this.

©2005 Chris Abraham. All Rights Reserved.
posted by chrisabraham at 9:43 AM on February 3, 2005




No, the ESB is not copyrighted, I don't think.

This is complete BS. The next thing you know, I'll be asked to pay for the use of PP.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:56 AM on February 3, 2005


They're not interested yet. I bet if you photographed the the Eiffel tower, and placed it on a "I hate Paris" weblog, you'd hear from them soon enough.

I seriously doubt it. Bad PR. They want people to come to Paris and photograph the tower.

Nonetheless, this is definitely a strange extension of copyright law.

Also, chrisabraham, your notice is unnecessary since it is already noted at the bottom of each MeFi page.
posted by effwerd at 9:57 AM on February 3, 2005


(orthogonality wins)
posted by themadjuggler at 10:01 AM on February 3, 2005


They were going to copyright the Paramus skyline, but it just looked like a bunch of cars on a highway, so they declined....
posted by ParisParamus at 10:01 AM on February 3, 2005


Damn, looks like the French were tired of not getting any press so they came up with this ridiculous idea.

How are they going to "manage" who takes pictures of the tower and publishes them? Are they aware of these little things called digital cameras? They even have them in cellphones now so I could snap a pic and publish it before the Gendarme puts down his croissant and saunters over.

This is a dumb idea but I heard dumber last night during the SOTU.
posted by fenriq at 10:07 AM on February 3, 2005



posted by kika at 10:19 AM on February 3, 2005


nthdegx: A couple of things about the quote in the article that you refer to.

Saying they aren't interested in the little guy is not the same as giving you noncommercial rights. They are simply saying they will only pursue commercial users. Technically, you would still be in violation of their rights, if they wished to pursue it. That is crazy. In the U.S. we do have a "fair use" policy which should protect one for U.S. copyrighted stuff, but I don't know how this works for things covered under another nation's laws. I also have doubts about your ability to use it on a web site (which could be considered publishing), as opposed to putting it on your office bulletin board.

They may also have a problem if they only selectively prosecute. Under trademark law (slightly different, and again - in the U.S.) a trademark owner must defend against all violations (that come to their knowledge). They can't really pick and choose. If they allow some people to use it, the trademark can fall into the public domain.

It would seem to me that (if they indeed have these rights) they should require written permission for non-commercial use - rather than saying "we aren't interested in going after the little guy".
posted by spock at 10:19 AM on February 3, 2005


This is not only a problem with the French. When I visited the Sydney Opera House our group was told that no pictures or video of the interior could be taken for copyright reasons. This also seems completely wacky to me.

I'm guessing that there are a million other examples like these two.
posted by spock at 10:22 AM on February 3, 2005


If this were to cut down on the number of images of the tower used to represent Paris (it won't, of course), it would be good. Imagine if London became known primarily for the Wheel. Bleh.
posted by pracowity at 10:22 AM on February 3, 2005


Can someone explain how copyright extends to an image? I would have thought copyright on the light display on the Eiffel Tower would have prevented someone else from building an Eiffel Tower (or miniature replica) and applying the same light display to it. Or building another Sydney Opera House somewhere else. How does an image (which contains copyrights on its own) violate the copyright of a light set-up?
posted by jacquilynne at 10:30 AM on February 3, 2005


Can't happen here (in US).

American law on building photography is roughly similar to UK law. Buildings are protected by copyright, but the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act of 1990 limits the rights of copyright owners. 'The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place.'
posted by beagle at 10:32 AM on February 3, 2005


Yep. This is insane.
posted by kyrademon at 10:37 AM on February 3, 2005


Hey, God? That inevitable mainstream backlash against the worldwide overextension of copyright? Any time. Now would be nice, actually.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:45 AM on February 3, 2005


This is probably bad news for Blackpool.
posted by nylon at 10:57 AM on February 3, 2005


Look. The French are fucked-up. But, isn't IP law supposed to be an EU-wide thing by now?

By the waym the SUA was very good.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:06 AM on February 3, 2005


LOOKING AT STUFF WITHOUT PAYING IS STEALING, COMMIES!

STOP LOOKING AT ME, YOU FREAKS!1!1!!1


You must cover yourself in copyright-able lights before legally making such statements, orthogonality
posted by spock at 11:13 AM on February 3, 2005


>Look. The French are fucked-up.

So I guess your name means you're fucked in the head?

And what is flickr (and other photo sharing sites) gonna do about this?
posted by gsb at 11:15 AM on February 3, 2005


Here in Chicago, the cops at the new Millenium Park are chasing away professional photographers who want to take and sell pictures of the bean because it's supposedly copyrighted by the sculptor. There was an article in the Chicago Reader about it last week, but they aren't online.

(Of course, this being Chicago, one of the photographers who was hassled "settled" with the cops for a $20 bribe. Can we just bribe the French?)
posted by goatdog at 11:23 AM on February 3, 2005


I look at this as a positive step. By allowing copyright law to get completely perverted, eventually everyone becomes an outlaw. This will lead people to wake up and start demanding an overhaul of this idiotic system en masse. Eventually politicians will start to realize that no matter how much money they get from the entertainment industry et al, they actually need votes to keep their jobs.
posted by mullingitover at 11:35 AM on February 3, 2005


If the French were cool, they'd figure out some way to use technology to make every picture of the tower taken at night without permission to come out all blurry.

That'd teach the people trying to steal the image of the tower!

Maybe the French think the camera is going to steal the tower's soul?
posted by fenriq at 11:48 AM on February 3, 2005


What is the matter with you people? Have you all lost your minds?

When you take photos of the Eifel Tower at night, you are stealing from Mr. Eifel and then he can't feed his family and he can't keep making new towers. Damn Tower pirates!
posted by crazy finger at 12:17 PM on February 3, 2005


For Mickey Mouse you're talking about a Trademark violation. For the inside of the Sydney opera house you're talking about a violation of the contract that allows you in there in the first place. Call it privacy. Copyright feels like the wrong word in this case. It's more like an issue of getting a model release, except for a trademarked landmark. If I'm walking down the street minding my own biz, and you take a picture of me that you want to put in a magazine ad for Levi's, you have to get my permission. Same with their lighting design.
posted by wolfey at 12:19 PM on February 3, 2005


Buildings are protected by copyright, but the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act of 1990 limits the rights of copyright owners.

Does Congress know about this?
posted by DuoJet at 12:19 PM on February 3, 2005


Actually, knowing the French, the police will just ignore the law.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:27 PM on February 3, 2005


They think they can own the light
posted by ZippityBuddha at 12:47 PM on February 3, 2005


How does an image (which contains copyrights on its own) violate the copyright of a light set-up?

Well, an image of a book would be covered by the book's copyright. After all, you can still read it. What about an image of a painting? An image of a painting of a book? An image of a billboard with an image of a painting of a book displayed on it? And finally, an image of the paint on the Eiffel tower. Therefore, we can copyright buildings, flowers, and facial expressions.

... I imagine that's more or less how the argument before the court went down.
posted by sfenders at 1:08 PM on February 3, 2005


What about that fake Eiffel Tower in Vegas? I could see the city of Paris having something to say about that.

But it seems silly for photos. I guess my "Eiffel Tower at Night" coffee table book plans need to be on hold.
posted by birdherder at 1:28 PM on February 3, 2005


If I'm walking down the street minding my own biz, and you take a picture of me that you want to put in a magazine ad for Levi's, you have to get my permission.

This doesn't sound like just advertising, though; it says all photographs. And if you were a celebrity, wolfey (maybe you are, actually), like Brad Pitt or Madonna, out in the street, people would be rushing you to take photos and sell them to the tabloids. If you're famous and out in the public eye (both of which clearly apply to the E.T.) aren't all the rules called off?
posted by LeLiLo at 1:31 PM on February 3, 2005


If the French were cool, they'd figure out some way to use technology to make every picture of the tower taken at night without permission to come out all blurry.

They could shake it really, really fast.

This Eiffel Tower? It vibrates?
posted by Sparx at 1:47 PM on February 3, 2005


Hmmm, I've done a little research and apparently the lighting of the Eiffel tower at night is apparently under trademark protection. In fact, in the French Patent and Trademark Office database, if you enter "SNTE" as trademark owner, you get a couple dozens hits, most of which appear to relate to lighting schemes (I can't see them without paying, but they've got names such as "AN 2000").
Now, they can certainly stop the reproduction of a registered trademark for commercial purposes, but "fair use" non-commercial reproduction is trickier. In any case, the only thing that the SNTE appears to request from non-commercial users is attribution.
posted by Skeptic at 3:02 PM on February 3, 2005


<Stupid Eiffel Tower Story>
I once had a friend who lived in France, and he liked to eat at the resturaunt inside the Eiffel Tower because, as he said, "Its the only place in Paris where you don't have to look at it."
posted by ChasFile at 3:05 PM on February 3, 2005




Some rights reserved?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:43 PM on February 3, 2005


what's next? ... are they going to patent surrendering, too?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:47 PM on February 3, 2005


Wonder what the French would do if la Tour Eiffel was the subject of a Fark/Something Awful photoshop contest? Hmm...
posted by Chunder at 1:41 AM on February 4, 2005


Semi self link: I guess when I edited this page I really screwed up.

I was once stopped when taking photographs at the Place des Vosges. When I explained I was just an amateur and the photographs were for my own use, I was allowed to continue. (I was using a tripod which made the person questioning me assume I was a professional.)

I am glad we can still copy architectural ideas. Or just copy architecture. Here are two easy ones:

library university of virginia:pantheon
maison carree:richmond capitol
posted by Dick Paris at 2:57 AM on February 4, 2005


In other "Silly Trademark Claims", it turns out some manufacturers of those plastic scale model kits of tanks and planes are being squeezed for royalties... by the actual manufacturers of the tanks and planes.
posted by LondonYank at 6:16 AM on February 4, 2005


This doesn't sound like just advertising, though; it says all photographs. And if you were a celebrity, wolfey (maybe you are, actually), like Brad Pitt or Madonna, out in the street, people would be rushing you to take photos and sell them to the tabloids. If you're famous and out in the public eye (both of which clearly apply to the E.T.) aren't all the rules called off?

All the rules are not called off. In the US we've decided there is a public interest in being able to discuss and portray public "figures" in the media (nasty editorial, gossip columns, etc.), like Brad Pitt, Martha Stewart or Hillary Clinton. But you cannot make Brad the face (or ass) of an advertising campaign or other commercial venture without his permission. This is what the ET thing sounds like to me, in which case it's really nothing new. Not sure how French/EU law applies.
posted by wolfey at 8:52 AM on February 4, 2005


Chunder I have to admit the same thought occurred to me. (Make sure that it is a nighttime image for maximum effectiveness.)
posted by spock at 10:17 AM on February 4, 2005


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