A view best admired without a camera. Reuters/Remy de la Mauviniere

A daytime photo is fine, but night shots are problematic since the light show is relatively new.

Copyright law gets a bad reputation for being heavyhanded—and deservedly so.

America gets most of the flak thanks to its rather generous copyright terms and the zeal with which its law enforcement agencies pursue online infringers. But some countries in Europe are no more enlightened. Indeed, taking a photo of the Eiffel Tower at night for any reason other than personal use is, technically, a violation of French copyright law, notes EU Observer, a European policy and current affairs website. A daytime photo is fine—copyright on the structure itself has expired—but night time photos remain problematic because the light show is more recent than the tower itself.

Also illegal is taking a photo of the Atomium, Belgium’s most famous tourist attraction after the tiny statue of a little boy urinating. Indeed, even taking a photograph of the European Parliament building in Belgium is problematic. The building’s location subjects it to Belgium’s copyright laws, which are more restrictive than the EU’s. The European Parliament doesn’t own the copyright to its buildings—an architectural firm does—and so can’t grant permission to photographers.

This rather odd state of affairs finds its roots in an optional EU directivethat frees up buildings in public spaces from strict copyright restrictions. France, Belgium, and Italy didn’t include the EU legislation into national law, allowing them to keep their more restrictive provisions. The Atomium website, for instance, makes this very clear: “The image of the Atomium is protected and can only be used under certain conditions,” it states. “Prices depend on whether it is to be used for a cultural, educational or commercial purpose.”

This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

MORE FROM QUARTZ:

Barack Obama Says the Internet Is a Public Good, and That's Why the US Needs Net Neutrality

The CIA Finally Sets the Record Straight on the True Story Behind "Argo"

Laundry Detergent's Latest Innovation is a Safety Hazard for Kids

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a Google employee on a bicycle.
    Equity

    How Far Will Google’s Billion-Dollar Bay Area Housing Plan Go?

    The single largest commitment by a private employer to address the Bay Area’s acute affordable housing crisis is unique in its focus on land redevelopment.

  2. Equity

    Berlin Will Freeze Rents for Five Years

    Local lawmakers agreed to one of Europe’s most radical rental laws, but it sets the stage for a battle with Germany’s national government.

  3. A person tapes an eviction notice to the door of an apartment.
    Equity

    Why Landlords File for Eviction (Hint: It’s Usually Not to Evict)

    Most of the time, a new study finds, landlords file for eviction because it tilts the power dynamic in their favor—not because they want to eject their tenants.

  4. Environment

    Paris Wants to Grow ‘Urban Forests’ at Famous Landmarks

    The city plans to fill some small but treasured sites with trees—a climate strategy that may also change the way Paris frames its architectural heritage.

  5. A photo of a new apartment building under construction in Boston.
    Equity

    In Massachusetts, a ‘Paper Wall’ of Zoning Is Blocking New Housing

    Despite the area’s progressive politics, NIMBY-minded residents in and around Boston are skilled in keeping multi-family housing at bay.

×