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

Ironically, the City of Light doesn't want you to share its sparkle.

Once the sun sets over Paris, the Eiffel Tower is lit in a dazzling display of 20,000 sparkling lights until 1 a.m. The show, which occurs nightly at the famous landmark, is not only a perfect calling card for the City of Light, but also a social media gold mine, attracting camera phones like moths to a flame. But every person who's posted a sparkling Boomerang to Instagram probably doesn't know that they've actually broken the law.

Mais oui! All those Instagram images, Facebook albums, and Pinterest pics showcasing the Eiffel Tower under the night stars are actually illegal. It all comes down to good old-fashioned copyright law which states that monuments in Europe are protected for the lifespan of the work's legal creator, plus 70 years. So while the Eiffel Tower itself, the creator of which died in 1923, is fair game, the light show, created in 1985, is still protected work.

As Snopes explained, "Under European copyright law, people cannot sell photographs of copyrighted works, upload them to stock photo websites, publish them in magazines, or — what affects most tourists — post them to social media."

Snopes noted that the Eiffel Tower itself is in the public domain, meaning that during daylight hours it's totally legal for you to share as many photos as you'd like.

And while it's not technically illegal for you to take photos of the monument day or night, you could, in theory, be hit with a cease and desist if you share a photo of the light show without permission. You could always snap a photo of the darkened building at night for your IG story, but really, what's the fun in that?

There is good news for tourists, though. If you're only trying to get a good shot for the 'gram, you probably needn't worry. Snopes explained that the effort to bring legal action against the everyday social media user would be too big of a burden to be worth the effort.

However, if you want to publish images of the tower all lit up anywhere official or for commercial use, you'll want to get permission from the Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (the company which owns and operates the tower).

As the Société notes on the Eiffel Tower's official website, "Photographing the Eiffel Tower at night is not illegal at all. Any individual can take photos and share them on social networks. But the situation is different for professionals. The Eiffel Tower's lighting and sparkling lights are protected by copyright, so professional use of images of the Eiffel Tower at night requires prior authorization and may be subject to a fee."

So go ahead, snap and share — and become an international criminal at large.

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