Bastille Day Fireworks and Copyright

Bastille Day FireworksBastille Day is a French national holiday that commemorates the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, an important episode in the French Revolution. Each year, Paris celebrates the day with an elaborate military parade down the Champs Elysées. Large and small fire departments across France hold balls with music, wine and dancing; and of course fireworks are set off from the Eiffel Tower.

This year, the theme of the Eiffel Tower fireworks show isParis est une fête (Paris is a party), which is the French translation of Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast.” Perhaps you knew all this already. But did you know that, in France, copyright law will protect the “Paris est une fêtefireworks display?

When the 100th anniversary of the building of the Eiffel Tower was commemorated, the French Supreme Court, or Cour de Cassation, held (in its Judgment of March 3, 1992, Case No. 90-18081) that a show “consisting of lighting effects of the tower by a combination of ramps and projectors, along with image projections and fireworks” is a work of art protected by copyright. In making this holding, the Court affirmed a lower court’s decision that a publisher cannot sell postcards reproducing photographs of the show without the show designer’s prior authorization.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is a good illustration of how extensive the notion of copyrightable work is under French law. Article 112-1 of the French Intellectual Property Code, states that works are protected by copyright “whatever their kind, form of expression, merit or purpose.”

So, if you get a chance to see the “Paris est une fête,” you might be reminded of original artworks and copyright protection.

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