A must-do item on every first-timer’s visit to Paris is to see the iconic Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkling against the night sky. As any tourist’s impulse would be, multiple photographs will want to be taken of the dazzling spectacle, but maybe don’t pull that camera out just yet.
According to Snopes, “Distributing photographs of the night-lit Eiffel Tower is a violation of the artist’s copyright.”
If you turn to the FAQ section of Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, which is the company that owns and operates the tower, it reads, “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.”
To recap, the Eiffel Tower itself is in the public domain, so any photographs taken during the day are totally allowed and definitely not illegal. It’s when the sun sets and the lights turn on that things start to get a little tricky.
The tower’s light show was added in 1985 and is technically owned by the artist, so any photographs are violating that copyright. Despite the action being illegal, there are hundreds of thousands of photos of the illuminated structure. Don’t worry though, no one has ever been brought to court over one of their photos. Maybe the next time you’re in Paris, though, take a quick look around and make sure there aren’t any policemen around. You never know what may happen.