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copyright question

Dear Doc:

What can you tell me about “Panoramafreiheit”?Signed,
An American in Paris

Dear Mr. Mulligan:

Gesundheit! But seriously…you must be referring to the European Union’s 2001 Information Society Directive that states that photos of architectural projects in public spaces (monuments, buildings, etc.) may be taken and published free of copyright infringement concerns (literally, freedom of panorama). That’s like the United States, where you’re pretty much free to take photos of any landmark or building and use those photos as you choose. That’s the rule in many European countries, too.  But not, alas, in France, Belgium and Italy! There, certain architectural works are protected, and unless you’re taking the photo for your own private, non-promotional use, or on a “private website” (whatever THAT is!?!) you have to get permission from the rights owner. You see, that EU directive was optional for each country to adopt, or not.

Now we all know (or at least should know) that Gustav Eiffel built his tower in 1889 and died in 1923. That means, Jerry, that there is no protection anymore for what French artists lovingly called a “ghastly dream”, so snap away…but ONLY during daylight. As most viewers of Rick Steves know, M. Eiffel’s tower now sparkles with thousands of lights each hour at night. In June, 1990 a French court ruled that the lights were an “original visual creation” protected by copyright. The Court of Cassation, France’s highest court, upheld the ruling in March 1992. The The Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE) now considers any illumination of the tower to be under copyright.  So don’t dare to photograph them, at least not if you intend to publish the photos in France!

Want to know where it’s OK to photograph? Ask the attorneys at LW&H. They deal with copyright laws, model releases, and similar minutae, and seem to really enjoy doing so.Until next year,

The “Doc”

— Lawrence Husick, Esq.