Taking photos of the Eiffel Tower at night

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognised Tourist attractions in the world. More than 6.2 million visitors enjoyed the romance of the Tower in 2017.   I can only imagine the number of photos taken. But these snaps can land you in hot water as publishing photos of the Tower illuminated at night is illegal.

A Short history of the Tower

The tower was constructed between 1887 and 1889 as the entrance to the 1898 World’s Fair.  It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower.
The tower is 324 meters tall and it has three levels for visitors.

The current golden illumination was attached to the Tower in 1985. It was invented by Pierre Bideau and consist of 336 projectors equipped with high-pressure, yellow-orange sodium lamps.

The tower was lit up in 1989 to commemorate its 100 anniversary,  and in 1990 a French court ruled that the display was an “original visual creation” and that it can be protected by copyright. The court of Cassation upheld the ruling and the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE) now considers any illumination of the tower to be a separate work of art that is copyrighted. It is therefore illegal to publish contemporary photographs of the lit tower at night without permission in France and some other countries for commercial use.

Information taken from the SETE website – The Eiffel Tower image rights

Free user

The image of the Eiffel Tower by day falls within the public domain: its use is rights-free, and may therefore be reproduced without prior authorisation by the SETE, the managing company of the image of the Eiffel Tower on behalf of the Mairie de Paris.

Controlled use

The various illuminations of the Eiffel Tower (golden illumination, twinkling, beacon and events lighting) are protected.
The use of the image of the Eiffel Tower at night is therefore subject to prior authorisation by the SETE. This use is subject to payment of rights, the amount of which is determined by the intended use, the media plan, etc.

Views of the Eiffel Tower taken by private individuals for private use do not require prior agreement. However, professionals must contact SETE, who will inform them of the conditions of use governing images.

What does mean for the average tourist taking snaps at night?

According to Art Law Journal the posting of private photos on social media or a use with limited economic value should not be a problem.
Those using the images for commercial use needs permission.  Also take note that if you take a picture of Paris at night and the tower happens to be in the picture, it is allowed as long as the tower is not the main focus of the photo.

So now you have the facts … and can make an informed decision before you  post your holiday snaps on social media.


Links and references

Sociéte d’Exploitation de la tour Eiffel
Art Law Journal