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Let's say I want to make a miniature replica of Big Ben and sell it online. Do I need any kind of permission for that? I'm assuming that given its age, Big Ben has to be public domain. But I'm not sure. I've tried contacting the British Parliament and other institutions related to Big Ben, but never got an answer.

  • Your own country might be relevant here. – D M Sep 19 at 22:55
  • DM is correct, your location or the location you are doing business in is generally more relevant than the building's location (I've edited my answer accordingly). – DPenner1 Sep 20 at 0:39
  • I live in Germany but I am doing business on the internet (a website hosted in the US), meaning that my clients might be located outside of Germany. – Conny Dago Sep 25 at 13:35
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I'm just going through high-level concepts with this answer, it's possible I miss a detail.

  • Architectural works are indeed copyrightable works in accordance with Berne Convention Article 2(1).
  • Both Big Ben and Eiffel Tower are no longer under copyright due to their architects dying more than 70 years ago.
  • French moral rights do not expire (UK moral rights expire with the economic rights). Most relevant to this question are the rights to attribution and against derogatory/damaging/prejudicial treatment defined by Berne Convention Article 6bis(1).
  • Copyright law is on a per-country basis and under Berne Convention Articles 3 & 4, foreign works are accorded equal rights to domestic works. French moral rights apply within France.

Taken together, in the UK these architectural works are in the public domain.

In France, economic rights (copyright) have expired, but moral rights still exist. Miniature replicas should be fine, but be sure to include attribution.

  • Do moral rights actually require attribution? Could you reference an example of such a law? It's certainly not required in the US. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Sep 20 at 2:52
  • @JonathanReez Specifics vary, in many cases needed to be asserted by the author, but some form of it is required by Berne Convention Article 6 bis. Examples are France: L121-1 of the Code de la propriété intellectuelle, Germany: Section 13 of the Urheberrechtsgesetz, Canada: Copyright Act section 14.1. UK: Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 Section 77. The US is often criticized for not properly implementing moral rights, but they do have a limited form in the Visual Artists Rights Act. – DPenner1 Sep 20 at 3:14
  • Since the tower that houses Big Ben (which is actually the name of the bell, not the tower) was completed before the Berne Convention, as well as before the UK copyright act of 1911, it's not clear that the Berne Convention applies. Another thing that one would have to consider is whether the tower is protected by crown copyright, since (I believe) it was built by the crown. I think not, because crown copyright was, I think, established in 1911. The terms of crown copyright differ somewhat from those of "normal" copyright. – phoog Sep 20 at 19:26
  • Would using the name "Eiffel Tower" for a model of that tower constitute sufficient attribution? – phoog Sep 20 at 19:29
  • @phoog I'm avoiding specifics since I'm didn't research too deeply, but on crown copyright, I agree with your statements, on Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) it's a bit trickier: Berne Convention may not have been in force at the time the building was completed, but it's very possible that the architecture was still under copyright at the time Berne came into force at which point it does become relevant. – DPenner1 Sep 20 at 22:48

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