What Is the Best Time of Day to Photograph the Eiffel Tower?

French civil engineer Gustave Eiffel designed his now-famous wrought-iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars to help celebrate the 1889 Exposition Universelle, a world's fair held in Paris. The permit for the tower stipulated that it would stay up for only 20 years, and in 1909 the city made plans to tear it down. Those plans changed, however, and today the Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognizable structures in the world, photographed thousands of times each day. But under European copyright law, people cannot sell nighttime photographs of the illuminated tower or publish them in magazines without official permission. Technically, it is even illegal to post them to social media, although this has never been enforced. The tower itself is in the public domain, but the lighting effects installed by Pierre Bideau in 1985 are still protected under European Union law.

Highlights from a French tower:

  • The law's primary aim is to curb the unauthorized commercial use of nighttime photos and video. It would be costly for La Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel to enforce the ban on every Facebook user who posts a snapshot of the illuminated tower.

  • In 1914, during World War I, a radio transmitter located in the tower jammed German communications and helped thwart the German invaders’ advance on Paris.

  • For a time, Eiffel used an apartment at the top of the tower to conduct meteorological observations and perform experiments related to air resistance on falling objects.

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