The image of the Atomium is protected and can only be used under certain conditions.


The image of the Atomium, which has considerable symbolic value, was formerly protected by its creator, the late engineer André Waterkeyn. The not-for-profit organisation Atomium asbl aims to ensure that this image is not misrepresented, distorted or used in a negative context. 
The rights to use images of the Atomium are managed by SOFAM and by Atomium asbl, as appointed by André Waterkeyn and subsequently by his trustees. Any usage of the image of the Atomium must therefore be submitted for approval to Atomium asbl prior to publication. 
André Waterkeyn died in 2005. In accordance with the legislation whereby a work is protected for a period of 70 years after the demise of its creator, the image of the Atomium is protected by copyright until 2075.
Any individual may use the image of the Atomium; a request for authorisation must firstly be submitted to Atomium asbl or to SOFAM, and the image must meet the following conditions : 
  • the image of the Atomium is not to be used in a negative context (in relation to racist or anti-democratic slogans, and so on).
  • the image of the Atomium is not to be misrepresented, distorted or inappropriately used (for example, it may not be shown being destroyed in an explosion). 
A copyright fee is payable when the image of the Atomium is reproduced, the amount depending on the particular usage made. These charges may be found on the SOFAM website.

Atomium asbl allows the image of the Atomium to be used free of charge in certain cases:
  • for events organised by the City of Brussels and the Brussels-Capital Region in order to promote tourism in the capital
  • for use in tourist publications (guidebooks)
However, this free usage is dependent on certain specific conditions, as is also the case with paid usage:
  • permission must be sought in advance
  • the request must be comprehensive; in other words, the following information must be included:
information relating to the project (purpose of use)
type of medium to be used
details of print-run or circulation
project layout 
  • the quality of the image must be approved by Atomium asbl
  • the copyright notice must be included 
  • copies of the image in the medium required must be sent to Atomium asbl
These conditions must be strictly adhered to. If it appears that this is not the case, the copyright fee will be charged by SOFAM.
The issue of Freedom of Panorama has also recently arisen: what is Freedom of Panorama?
According to the principle of Freedom of Panorama, it is possible to take and circulate photos of three-dimensional works that are protected by copyright laws (particularly sculptures and buildings) and are permanently on view in public places, without applying to the trustees for permission to do so. 
Freedom of Panorama has been introduced into Belgian copyright law and took effect on 15 July 2016.
A new exception has been introduced into the Code of Economic Law, which includes copyright legislation. It stipulates that the reproduction and communication to the public of any example of the plastic, graphic or architectural arts designed to stand permanently in a public space, cannot be prohibited by its creator, provided that the reproduction or communication does not conflict with normal exploitation of the work in question, and does not cause undue prejudice to the legitimate interests of its creator (art. XI.190, 2/1°). 
Anyone seeking to invoke the Freedom of Panorama exception must meet the conditions set out in this article, which must be strictly adhered to.
The following uses are not covered by Freedom of Panorama, and therefore require prior permission:
  • any usage of a commercial nature, or involving advertising 
  • drawings, paintings and other graphic adaptations or arrangements of the original work, in cases when the work reproduced or communicated to the public no longer appears as it is seen in the public domain
What does this mean for the Atomium in practical terms? 
In practice, little has changed. This new exception to the law provides guidelines for a situation that required clarification, that is, cases when photos of the Atomium are taken by private individuals who then post these images on private websites, social media sites or blogs, for non-commercial purposes. Atomium asbl had already been applying the principle of Freedom of Panorama for some time, and it is now recognized by the law.
Photos of the Atomium used for commercial purposes or for advertising, together with images of the Atomium that have been altered and placed in a different context, remain subject to prior authorisation from Atomium asbl, and to the payment of copyright fees to SOFAM.
For any further information: yvonne boodts atomium be and tinne billet sofam be.
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