To the best of my knowledge, restrictions regarding taking pictures of buildings only apply to "recent" buildings still covered by intellectual property rights of the architect. For example, all buidings designed by le Corbusier and other well-know architects are protected. Roman ruins do not need a permit ... at least seen from the public domain, outside the monument. See below some interesting cases ruled by courts : "café Gondrée" in Normandy and an extinct vocano in Auvergne (!!)
The Eiffel Tower, during the day, can be freely photographed, but the Tower's decorative lights at night are covered by the intellectual property of some artist.
The French National Railways, (the SNCF state company was recently split into several independant business entities, the new spin-off company who owns and manages the installations is named: réseau Ferré de France), does apply some strict regulations regarding commercial use of pictures of all their property; train stations, tracks, bridges, etc ... except if you work for a railway magazine promoting the use of train, but you have to ask for a publishing permit or something like that. If you keep your images private, you'll probably never hear about the lawyers working for the French National Railways.
Hence for private use I cannot but recommend our readers to take all pictures they wish of some old and spectacular railway bridges like this one, which is probably no longer covered by architect's rights for the same reason as the Eiffel Tower ; it is Gustave Eiffel's design.
As a general rule, old buildings, anywhere in France, can be freely photographed, with exceptions inside monuments managed by the Ministry of Culture or other public institutions (for example, the Arc-et-Senans Salt Works are the property of the local government of Départment du Doubs who has authority on image rights & other local regulations for the monument).
The problem is well-known to professionals working inside some public historical monuments covered by such image rights: they have to pay a fee.
But in France you have so many buildings visible from the public domain, from Roman ruins to humble houses, that you could spend a whole life freely taking pictures on a tripod, be it for private use or for a commercial publication.
For example, this famous view of one of the most picturesque villages in Eastern France (Lods, Doubs) can be freely taken with absolutely no restriction.
This is jpeg preview of a nice 8x10" platinum print by Alain Carrillo
Once I met in person the owner of the old buildings (a former water mill) just near the river. He confirmed that there was no objection on his side. His water mill has been photographed thousands of times.
Regarding the actual French jurispridence relative to image rights of private properties, this is a very, very, complex story.
It started some years ago when the owner of a café in Normandy, "café Gondrée", the first building supposed to have been liberated by allied troops after June 6, 1944, became a a kind of a "hot spot" for pilgrimage. The café's owner tried to get money from the publication of images of his café, and eventually he won, so it was prohibited to take pictures of café Gondrée without a written permission and paid fee.
But this decision by courts boosted other similar requests for image rights on: small fishing boats, gardening huts, cows, dogs, etc...
Eventually the French courts, over-flooded with excessive procedures on this kind of affairs, reversed their jurisprudence. People now have to prove that a publication of an image of their property as seen from the public domain is actually detrimental to them. And to the best of my knowledge, the courts now do not make any difference whether the image is kept private or used commercially.
So this has cooled down many attempts to sue photographers and get money.
A famous French brand of mineral water used the image of a famous extinct volcano in Auvergne. The place is a private property, the owner tried to get money from the courts. Eventually the court ruled that anybody could freely use the image of this volcano. Sure, you can argue the the big company behind the mineral water brand can pay for the services of good lawyers, that no single photographer could ever afford ...
So the situation is likely to change again in the future. When you see the quality of images that can be taken with digital systems at very high ASA/ISO sensitivity ratings, absurd retrictions against "on-tripod" photography will probably dissapear, simply because commercial photographers will use hand-held digital equipement !
So if you want to take a professional top quality image from the inside of the Louvre Gardens, inside the "streng verboten" area, simply do not show any tripod, you'd better take an Alpa 12 or an Arca Swiss Rm3D hand-held, with a film or digital back, you'll be indistinguishable from the troops of tourists with their hand-held digital cameras ;-)
paris as many big cities : anything is forbiden , but you can try anything anywhere ,
all the advices written above are right ,
sultanofcognac gave a good description
From the title this thread didn't seem that interesting but I have really enjoyed reading this!