Images of Taipei 101 now restricted

The Taipei Times is reporting that “Taipei Financial Center Corp (TFCC), owner of Taipei 101, said it will start charging companies for any commercial usage of the image of the world’s tallest building in a bid to protect its trademark.”

Last year alone, TFCC found over 1,000 cases of other companies using Taipei 101 as a promotional tool — mostly in real estate advertising — that could potentially mislead consumers, Wei said.

As a result, TFCC decided to charge royalty for any commercial use of the building’s image. For example, a poster featuring the Taipei 101 tower will be charged NT$100,000 (US$3,099), Wei said.
Use for the government and public is free of charge, Wei said.

The decision drew the ire of advertisers and TV producers, as other major landmarks around the world, such as the Empire State Building in New York City and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, have no such charges.

Unfortunately, the last statement seems to be only half true. In a clever manuever, photographs of the Eiffel tower itself are not copyrightes, but in 2003 a new lighting display was installed. Since the design of the lights is copyrighted, photographs of the lighting disaply are as well, which by extension means any photos of the Eiffel Tower at night.

As a result, it’s no longer legal to publish current photographs of the Eiffel Tower at night without permission. Technically, this applies even to amateurs. When I spoke to the Director of Documentation for SNTE, St├ęphane Dieu, via phone last week, he assured me that SNTE wasn’t interested in prohibiting the publication of amateur photography on personal Web sites. “It is really just a way to manage commercial use of the image, so that it isn’t used in ways we don’t approve,” said Mr. Dieu.

It may be some minor comfort that owners of iconic buildings such as the Eiffel Tower or Taipei 101 claim that they won’t prosecute non-commercial infringers, but the fact is that there is nothing stopping them from being a nuisance to anyone that publishes such a photo, even on a personal blog like this one. Does anyone really think that laws allowing for these kinds of restrictions are reasonable? I can’t wait for 2012 (to be optimistic) when security teams are stealing cameras from tourists snapping photos of the new “Freedom Tower” at New York’s World Trade Center.

2 thoughts on “Images of Taipei 101 now restricted”

  1. Copyright law in the US does not cover photos of architecture, though. You can copyright the architectural design, so that e.g. a person couldn’t build a second Eiffel Tower without having to license the copyright in the architecture. But that copyright doesn’t extend to photography. It’s in Section 120 of the Copyright Act if you care to look it up…

    So, for now, we should be able to post photos of these buildings without having to worry about such silly legal shenanigans…

  2. Taiwanese trademark law is a bit freakier, though, and on first examination I can’t find a good reason that trademarking the building wouldn’t allow the owners to stop someone from selling pictures of it. (The law is here.)

    Under American and Japanese trademark law, you definitely couldn’t get away with such behavior.

Comments are closed.