Copyrighting the Tower Image
Images of the Eiffel Tower have long been in the public domain; however
in 2003, the operating company SNTE installed a new lighting display on
the tower, the design of which they then copyrighted. The effect was to
put the night-time image of the tower under copyright. It follows that
it is no longer legal to publish contemporary photographs of the lighted
tower without permission.
The imposition of copyright is not without some controversy. The
Director of Documentation for SNTE, Stéphane Dieu, fatuously commented
in January 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". However, it
potentially has the effect of prohibiting tourist photographs of the
tower at night from being published.
Some critics have pointed out that the free use of pictures of the tower
constitutes the best sort of advertising that the City of Paris could
possibly have to attract tourist. Others made derogatory comments about
the egocentric French not knowing which side of their baguette is
buttered. However, those of us who cotton on the French best know that
they don't butter their bread.
Unfortunately, we are unable to reprint the vast majority of
|comments, from around the world, because of the four letter
||Lighted Eiffel Tower
therein. Let it suffice that, although Eiffel himself thought about
commercializing the image, his better sense caused him to give up his
commercial rights, letting the image fall into the public domain.
In a recent decision, the French Court of Cassation ruled that an
architect could not claim copyright over images that include one
building, the design of which they held the copyright for, if the
photograph encompasses a larger area. This seems to indicate that SNTE
cannot claim copyright on photographs of Paris incorporating the lighted
tower at night. Imagine what would happen to their 'copyright' set of
rights should there be a glimpse of clouds, blue sky, trees, buildings,
airplanes, etc. in the picture.
The French court, acting on behalf of all the non-bureaucratic,
non-narcissistic French, and a generally intelligent world, saw the
folly of it all.
Alexandre Gustave Eiffel was born in Dijon France in 1832. He
graduated from the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, Paris in
1855 and joined a Belgian firm which specialized in railway equipment.
He established an independent practice in 1864 after which he
established a career as an engineer-contractor.