Keywords: Eiffel Tower, European Parliament, Freedom of
On 16 June 2015, the European Parliament's Legal Affairs
Committee adopted a report reviewing the EU's legislative
framework in the area of copyright law. The original draft of the
report, authored by German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda,
has been subject to various amendments. One amendment that has
spawned considerable debate concerns the so called freedom of
panorama exception. This exception to the rights of the copyright
holder allows anyone to publish images of works, such as works of
architecture or sculpture, made to be located permanently in public
places without infringing any copyright that may subsist in such
work. The amended draft includes a recommendation, however, that
"the commercial use of photographs, video footage or other
images of works which are permanently located in physical public
places should always be subject to prior authorisation from the
authors [the copyright holders, BB] or any proxy acting for
On a European level, the freedom of panorama exception has its
roots in Article 5(3)(h) of the Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC).
This provision provides for the possibility of Member States having
a freedom of panorama exception in their copyright laws, but does
not require such a rule. The majority of EU Member States, however,
currently apply such exception. For example, Germany enjoys a
provision in section 59 of the German Copyright Act (UrhG)
that allows anyone, even for commercial ends, to publish
photographs of modern buildings or public art installations without
infringing copyrights. Other Member States, including France, did
not incorporate a freedom of Panorama exception into
their national laws.
In France, for example, it is illegal to publish photographs of
the Eiffel Tower at night. Whilst the structure of the Tower
itself, built in 1889, entered the public domain a long time ago,
the Tower's illuminations are considered to be an artistic work
and, thus, subject to copyright protection. As a result,
publication of a photograph of one of Europe's most iconic
landmarks requires the photographer to first seek permission of the
rights holder. The stance is confirmed by the Eiffel Tower's
operating company, who note the following in the FAQ-Section on their Website:
"The views from the Eiffel Tower
are rights-free. Permission and rights must be obtained from the
"Société d'Exploitation de la Tour
Eiffel" (the Operating Company, or SETE) for the publication
of photos of the illuminated Eiffel Tower."
The final vote on the adoption of the amended report in the
plenary of the European Parliament is due to take place on 9 July
2015. Even if the report were to be adopted in it's present
form, the result would merely be a (non-binding) recommendation. It
would then be on the European Commission to put forward a formal
proposal to revise copyright law. The Commission's proposals
would, in turn, need agreement not only by the Parliament but also
by a large majority of EU Member States.
From a legal standpoint, giving effect to the amended report
would not necessarily see millions of Europeans face legal action
for uploading photos of famous landmarks onto their social network
profiles. The restriction of the freedom of panorama exception
would primarily affect professional photographers using images for
commercial purposes. However, there remains a "grey area"
since, for example, the terms of service of Facebook give Facebook
the right "to use any IP content that you [the users, BB] post
on or in connection with Facebook". As Facebook and other
social network platforms generate revenue through
advertising, uploading photos might fall within the scope
of the proposed restrictions.
Mayer Brown is a global legal services provider
comprising legal practices that are separate entities (the
"Mayer Brown Practices"). The Mayer Brown Practices are:
Mayer Brown LLP and Mayer Brown Europe – Brussels LLP, both
limited liability partnerships established in Illinois USA; Mayer
Brown International LLP, a limited liability partnership
incorporated in England and Wales (authorized and regulated by the
Solicitors Regulation Authority and registered in England and Wales
number OC 303359); Mayer Brown, a SELAS established in France;
Mayer Brown JSM, a Hong Kong partnership and its associated
entities in Asia; and Tauil & Chequer Advogados, a Brazilian
law partnership with which Mayer Brown is associated. "Mayer
Brown" and the Mayer Brown logo are the trademarks of the
Mayer Brown Practices in their respective
This Mayer Brown article provides information and comments
on legal issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not
a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not
intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific
legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
On 8 September 2016 (C-160/15), the CJEU ruled that the posting of a hyperlink to copyright-protected works located on another website does not constitute copyright infringement when the link poster does not seek financial gain.
The chapter on the UK summarises the IP court and litigation system in the UK, recent developments in relation to IP law and practice, the forms and availability of IP protection and trends and outlook in the IP sphere.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).