Why It’s Illegal to Take Photos of the Eiffel Tower at Night

Under current French law, distributing a photo of the Eiffel Tower at night could land you in hot water. Here's the unusual reason why.

Ahh, an evening in Paris. Your stomach is full of good bread, good cheese, and good wine. Now you’re staring up at the Eiffel Tower as its lights twinkle and dance in the night sky. But if you’re thinking about snapping a photo of the view, you might want to think again. Snopes, the online fact-checking site, confirmed that sharing photographs of the Eiffel Tower at night is actually illegal. Check out even more mind-blowing facts about the Eiffel Tower.

Under current French law known as the freedom of panorama, it is fine to take a picture of the Eiffel Tower at night, but only for personal use. Distributing that photograph via Facebook or Instagram, or in any way that might benefit you financially without purchasing the rights from the owner of the copyright, might land you in hot water. That must be the French government, right? Or whoever owned the secret apartment inside the Eiffel Tower? Nope. The reason the nighttime display is copyrighted is that even though the Eiffel Tower is legally a public space, the lights are not. The tower’s evening light display, installed in 1985 by Pierre Bideau, is technically owned by the artist and protected by copyright.

The FAQ section of Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, the company that owns and operates the tower, confirms it: “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.” Translation? Sharing a photo of the illuminated Eiffel Tower without permission from France could make you a potential target for copyright lawyers. If this surprises you, you’ll be shocked by these crazy but real international laws, too.

Your Facebook photos of the Eiffel Tower at night are probably safe, though—especially if you only use them for personal purposes. And considering exactly how much it costs to light the Eiffel Tower every day, it’s practically a waste if a few tourists can’t snap a photo, right?

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