The Atomium

Last night I had dinner with a good friend of mine, Declan, and his family. They live in England and came to Brussels for a day-trip. He has a 6-year-old kid and I wanted to find a gift for him. I went in one of those souvenir stores and bought a miniature of the most amazing thing ever done by Belgian minds – The Atomium.

The Atomium is a monument located in the outskirts of Brussels. A lot of tourists will not visit the structure because it is indeed a bit out-of-the-way. I consider that coming to Brussels and not seeing it like going to Paris and not checking the Eiffel Tower. Well, it is not as big as the Parisian symbol, but I find it much prettier.

This is a picture that my friend Daniel took when visiting me last april (© http://www.atomium.be – SABAM 2012 – Daniel Edmundosn):

The Atomium was constructed in 1958 for the world exposition.  These events in the past were more charming and important than they are today. There was no internet, no satellites… information travelled in much slower methods. The world fairs were the moment for each country to display their technological advances and cultural highlights. The Atomium was built in an era were the discussions of the use of nuclear energy were at full speed – for the good and for the bad. It is fun to think that after more than 50 years, the world is still discussing the same thing.

The monument was conceptualized by an engineer – Mr. André Waterkeyn. The idea was then put to existence by the architects André and Jean Polak. The Atomium is composed of nine interconnected spherical pieces. The top sphere is located at 102 meters – where you can get a reasonable view of Brussels. Now a days, the Atomium is used for different temporary expositions and private events.

The rights of the Atomium image were transferred from Mr. Waterkeyn to the Belgian Society of Authors (SABAM) – the organ responsible for the ownership of films, music, etc. Since then, they have being monitoring the use of the image of the Atomium.

According to the official website, any use of the image of the monument must be approved by the SABAM. The approval, of course, will be given only after a price of usage is set depending if the purpose is cultural, educational or commercial. Still according to the website, the exception is “In the case where photographs are taken by private individuals and shown on private websites for no commercial purpose (the current trend for photo albums), as long as these pictures are displayed at a low resolution (600 pixels maximum, resolution of 72dpi) to avoid abusive usage and downloads.” Furthermore, the image must contain “© http://www.atomium.be – SABAM 2012 – photographers name”.

Rightholder groups, such as SABAM, live in a parallel world. In March 2012 they tried to demand fees for public libraries that were organizing book readings.  In their weird understanding of the world, they were expecting a public non-profit library to pay 250 euro a year to have the privilege of having people reading books to young kids!

This shows how a sad and boring place the world is becoming. I cannot imagine that Mr Waterkey and the Polak brothers could be happy by such unnecessary greed. This is a symbol of Belgium, but because of stupid political decisions, until 2075, the image belong to a group of private individuals. I can not imagine that in 1958 any living person could imagine how our rights would be so easily taken away. Not by the government, or by the communists, but by private groups that now rule our way of thinking and decide what we can or cannot do.

Still, go visit the Atomium and if you live in Russia take a very high-resolution picture and make it available in the Internet – the world deserves to see this.

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