Saturday, February 05, 2005

I'm in Trouble with the Law

DJ Wren sent me this link.
Apparently, it is illegal to publish pictures of the Eiffel Tower when it is lit up unless you have the necessary permission. According to the article, the lighting display used at night by the company maintaining the tower is under copyright. Unbelievable!

The beautiful Eiffel Tower:
____________Legal________________Not So Legal_____________Not Legal?

-- said Auntie M in Paris
1:35 PM



That is crazy. How is anyone supposed to know that? There must be tons of "illegal" photos out there.

I do know that it is highly illegal to take pictures of people in France without their permission. I know a photographer who got in some serious trouble for taking a picture of someone that he did not ask.

But, again, how are you supposed to know these things?


# posted by Anonymous : 2:29 PM  

I saw that too. And it's a shame, 'cause I took a gorgeous pic of it on New Year's Eve. It's still in my photoblog, and I have no plans to take it down. Guess I'll have to play the ignorant American card.

# posted by ViVi : 3:42 PM  

Hi Auntie –

The French proverb states " Nul n'est censé ignorer la loi.", which can be freely rendered as "No one is supposed to be unaware of the law." (smile)

Of course, this is honored more in the breach than in the observance, but when "they wanna getcha, they'll getcha, have no doubt about it". (wider smile) One should always be aware of the law in France, alas. If, for some reason (like "pour encourager les autres") a law should be enforced, it will be, publicly and noisily.

The Eiffel-Tower-by-night photo is one of the more famous prohibitions. French law states that the picture can't be used and published without permission. Posting on internet is considered publishing. CQFD, as the French say ("Ce Qui Fallait Demontrer"). (We would say QED - "quot erat demonstrandum", i.e., "that which was to be demonstrated").

Note that it is also illegal to photograph and publish a photo of the Pyramide du Louvre, without permission and without paying royalties to the copyright owner (who, the last I heard, was the American architect I.M. Pei – dunno if he transferred/shared the copyright, though).

Furthermore it is quite illegal in France to take a picture of an individual and publish the picture without her/his permission. Concretely this means one can't snap a photo of someone (identifiability !) in the street and post the photo on internet. The usual workaround (non_identifiability !) is to blur the face with a Photoshop-type program just enough to prevent recognition. All of this doesn't apply, of course, to public people like politicians, movie stars, and what might generally be termed "People" (although some "People", such as Laetitia Halliday and Stef de Monac, are pretty shirty about such things).

By the way, the link you gave is excellent and the references therein to the Cour de Cassation and pictures of private (as oposed to public) places here are correct. Moreover, since the Convention de Berne is incorporated by treaty into US law, it applies over there, too, notwithstanding some of the comments.

For us, what should be remembered here is the (particularly) French concept ot "régularisation". I'll give you an example and compare it to, say, a California situation, to illustrate easily.

You're driving along at night. The cops pull you over and say "Papers, please." You give over your driver's license, insurance card, vehicle ownership papers, and receipt for the currently valid "contrôle techique". (In France, you might even pass along your "carte de séjour" or "carte d'identité"). The talking cop looks at the papers and then says "Sir, your red running light, left rear, is burnt out. No light."

Now, out California way, the cop then pulls out his book and prepares the ticket (that's probably the reason he pulled you over in the first place, whereas in France a "contrôle d'identité" can be carried out at any time: none of this Anglo-Saxon nonsense about "probable cause" and so on …). He writes the ticket and you part ways.

In France, the cop says ""Sir, your red running light, left rear, is burnt out. No light." You say, politely: "Darn ! I didn't know that. However, I can régulariser." ("Mince ! Je ne savais pas. Cependant, je peux régulariser.") He says yes, allez-y alors. You blithely open the trunk, pull out the set of spare bulbs, and change the offending one, while the cop watches approvingly.

You have brought about your compliance with French law. Vous avez régularisé la situation. L'infraction a cessé d'exister. ("You've regularised the situation. The offense has ceased to exist."). The cop says "Bonne fin de soirée" and you part ways. No ticket.

See ? This French idea of "régularisation" can be used in different situations and with varying degrees of success: on-street parking problems, school attendance, apartment ownership hassles, noisemaking at night, late alimony payments, late payment of taxes (!), minor "carte de séjour" hassles … depends on who, when, where and what.

This might go some way to explaining the French Relationship To The Law, which is not quite what we are used to in the US of A. (smile) There is a reason for everything elastic in France.


# posted by L'Amerloque : 3:57 PM  

I can only imagine how deep the discussions get on this.
I wonder/do you know if they mean to publish and make money or publish period (making money or not)?
(Okay all, if Auntie M is called re these pics we must support her!) Terry in SF

# posted by Anonymous : 8:08 PM  

I love it when you BAD side comes out.

# posted by NARDAC : 11:34 PM  

That's one of the most in-depth comments I have ever read. Very interesting.

# posted by Philip : 11:48 PM  

Can someone explain comments by NARDAC and Philip? thank you.

# posted by Anonymous : 1:11 AM  

That is just fascinating, as are the legal explanations in some of the previous comments. One does wonder how they expect to enforce this?

We didn't get any still shots of the Tower lit up (just on video) but my own blog shows the pyramid at the Louvre. So I guess I'm violating copyright, too.

# posted by Donna : 3:03 AM  

One should never trust these allegedly bilingual grammar- and spell-checkers, especially when one is tired. (sigh)

Obviously "Ce Qui Fallait Demontrer" should have been "Ce Qu'il Fallait Démontrer". Sorry for the confusion, and for the other spelling errors found.


# posted by L'Amerloque : 8:52 AM  

According to one of the trackbacks about this article...it says that the French government reclaimed the Eiffel Tower in 2003...so if you have any lit up pictures prior to 2003 are they still in copyright infringement?


# posted by Anonymous : 3:27 PM  

Wow, somebody is asking me to explain my comment? The level of education in the States must really be dropping if reasonably retarded comments can slip under comprehension radar.

duh... she's breaking the law by posting the pics...

# posted by NARDAC : 6:36 PM  

Jason, I have no idea how someone would know that it is illegal to post pictures of the Eiffel Tower at night. Why would you ask? Who would you ask? I've never seen it published anywhere. But I didn't know about not being able to publish photos of people either. That makes more sense though.
Vivi, I was thinking about your beautiful New Years Eve picture when I read the article!
L'A, Once again, you've informed me about something I knew nothing about...no published photos of the Pyramids? There must be thousand of photos of the Louvre pyramids on the web. It's kind of sad that it is under copyright. Your comments are always very informative. Thank you
Terry, Hopefully they go after the people who make money on the published photos... at least I hope that is who they start with!
NARDAC, You are too much! Your comment made me laugh.
A, I think NARDAC was referencing the title of the post. I think Philip was referencing L'Amerloque's comment.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 8:13 PM  

Donna, Thank you for commenting. I tried to see if you have a blog too, but couldn't find it. Let me know if you do because I'd like to check it out. I have no idea how they'd track who was breaking the law, but I can't help but think of the 'napster' song swapping stuff of a few years ago. No one thought they'd be caught and so many were! Who knows? BTW, you're only breaking the copyright if you publish your picture, I think.
L'A, Thanks for the correction. I think we knew what you meant. Sometimes when I spell check my computer does crazy things too.
Kelley, Good point. I think that with pictures taken before 2003 you wouldn't be violating the copyright, but of course, I'm not a lawyer.

# posted by Auntie M in Paris : 8:20 PM  

I'm all for open sourcing the world. This kind of ridiculous copyright stuff makes my blood boil. It happened in Chicago recently too. It is illegal to photograph publicly paid for sculpture in a public space. It's craziness.


# posted by Anonymous : 4:01 PM  

Hi Auntie -

I just love this country. (smile)

Today Friday, February 11, 2005 the big news is Charles and Camilla finally tying the knot.

In this morning's Le Parisien, over pages 2 and 3, the headline is:

"Charles et Camilla régularisent, enfin"

which yields something akin to:

"Chales and Camilla regularize, finally."


# posted by L'Amerloque : 11:50 AM  

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