Having just returned from Paris, I spent some time photographing a few of the world’s most famous landmarks.
Some of these photos are just my personal vacation photos and will only be seen by me (and maybe my Facebook friends…DIYP readers…Facebook friends of DIYP readers…). But, a few of them will end up being sold commercially as royalty free stock through my stock portfolio over at Stocksy United.
If you are a photographer, and especially if you are a commercial photographer (commercial in the general sense that you take photographs or sell photographs for money), you should be aware of the copyright restrictions for landmarks, buildings, architecture, art and other intellectual property.
Keep reading, because like this restriction on publishing photographs of the Eiffel Tower at night, there are more weird copyright restrictions for landmarks, buildings, architecture, art and other intellectual property than you might think.
Getty Images Intellectual Property Wiki
Getty Images has published an extremely useful guide to help determine when a property release is required for publication of photographs of famous landmarks and other intellectual property.
You can find the complete guide here: Getty Images Intellectual Property Wiki
According to the entry for general location photography:
As a general rule, permission should always be sought when shooting on private property. Therefore a property release is required for creative collections. And consent or a permit for Editorial collections.
Also as a general rule, places that charge an admission fee or require a ticket for entry usually require special permission for commercial photography. Consent should be sought. These locations are therefore problematic in all collections both Editorial and Creative. They should be completely avoided in Royalty-Free content, while some may be suitable for Rights-managed or Editorial with the proper consent. Some locations may be free to enter (like certain museums or historical properties), but imagery taken inside may still be problematic. Do your research prior to shooting.
Exterior shots of many locations and buildings as street scenes may be suitable for RF and RM creative collections.
Exterior shots are generally acceptable as Editorial content provided the structures featured within the shots abide by editorial standards (i.e. no copyrighted works).
When shooting private residences, even if off the grounds of the property, a property release should be sought for all creative collections.
10 Famous Landmarks You’re Not Allowed to Photograph for Commercial Use
Now that we know the basics of when a property release is required, lets look at a few weird exceptions that you might not expect.
1. The Eiffel Tower At Night
As we previously shared here, photographs of the Eiffel Tower during the day are pas de problème. But once the street lights come on – the Eiffel Tower is off limits – unless the tower is part of a city scene and not the main focus.
2. The Louvre
Another famous Paris landmark, except photographs of both the interior and exterior of the Louvre and IM Pei’s Pyramid are not allowed day or night. However, images of the Louvre and Pyramid may be used for editorial content where the building is not the subject or constitutes a small portion of the image (like in the lead photo for this article).
3. Notre Dame de Paris
Staying en France, the exterior of Notre Dame de Paris – c’est bonne, but the interior requires permission. I have seen photos taken from the Notre Dame bell tower tour (ie. not accessible from a public location) in royalty free collections that feature some of the Notre Dame gargoyles and city scape, so I guess as long as its the exterior they are still OK – even if you had to obtain permission (by paying for a tour ticket) to get access to take the photo.
4. Burning Man Festival
Who knew that a temporary city in the middle of a desert could be copyrighted? Well, photographs of the Burning Man Festival including the grounds, structures and identifiable features within the temporary Black Rock City are all restricted.
5. Hollywood Sign
The Hollywood Sign is in countless movies and postcard photos – but they all either received permission or are in violation of the sign’s copyright.
6. Las Vegas Hotels
Vegas is just down the road from LA – but unlike the Hollywood Sign, photography featuring the iconic “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign are not restricted by copyright…but photos of all of the famous Las Vegas Hotels on the strip are.
7. Sydney Opera House
Jumping over to Australia – photographs featuring the Sydney Opera House are restricted. However, photographs of the city scape or wide vista photos where the Sydney Opera House is visible may be usable.
8. Ayers Rock
The Australians have even found a way to copyright nature. Photography of Ayers Rock (Uluru and Kata Tjuta) is restricted. Apparently even taking photos of one of the most famous features associated with Australia is illegal. Try figuring out how that works.
9. Maps, Globes and Atlases
While you’re traveling, don’t bother taking any photos of your Maps, Globes and Atlases – they protected by copyright.
10. Queen Elizabeth
OK – so the Queen isn’t a famous landmark, but we are not amused. While rock stars and celebrities repeatedly try to restrict the use of their likeness, it seems only Queen Elizabeth II has succeeded in copyrighting herself.
In fact, the Queen’s copyright is so restrictive that you can’t even photograph currency that contains the Queen’s likeness.
While we’re talking about money – just in case you find one in your wallet, the US Million Dollar Bill has a registered copyright and is strictly off limits to commercial photographers.
What Is Your Favorite Famous Landmark That You’re Not Allowed to Photograph?
If you have some time to spare, it really is worthwhile to browse through the entire Getty Images Intellectual Property Wiki.
It is fascinating to find out which famous landmarks are protected by copyright – I am sure that there are a ton more strange copyright protected famous landmarks that could be added to the list.
Leave a comment below and let us know which one is your favorite.