Project: André Waterkeyna, Brussels, Belgium (Photo: Gosia Głowacka, April 2014)
The Atomium is a building in Brussels originally constructed for Expo 58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Designed by the engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak, it stands 102 m (335 ft) tall. Its nine 18 m (59 ft) diameter stainless steel clad spheres are connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. It is a museum.
SABAM, Belgium’s society for collecting copyrights, has claimed worldwide intellectual property rights on all reproductions of the image via the United States Artists Rights Society (ARS). For example SABAM issued a demand that a United States website remove all images of them from its pages.The website responded by replacing all such images with a warning not to take photographs of the Atomium, and that Asbl Atomium will sue if you show them to anyone. Sabam confirmed that permission is required.
Ralf Ziegermann remarked on the complicated copyright instructions on Atomium’s Web site specific to “private pictures”. The organisers of Belgian heritage, Anno Expo (planning the 50th anniversary celebrations of Expo 58), in the city of Mechelen announced a “cultural guerrilla strike” by asking people to send in their old photographs of the Atomium and requested 100 photoshoppers to paint over the balls. SABAM responded that they would make an exception for 2008 and that people could publish private photographs for one year only on condition they were for non-commercial purposes.