Even the Google Streetview camera respects Baarle’s Belgian borders


Baarle is a town in the Netherlands … and Belgium. It contains 39 Belgian enclaves on Dutch soil and 5 Dutch enclaves on Belgian soil, and some of them are inside each other, so that you get “this whole ridiculous Russian Doll situation,” to quote New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk parody duo.

The dashed line you see in the photo above is one of the borders, and as you can see, the Google Streetview car refuses to drive onto Belgian territory. I am not sure why that is, but perhaps it is because Belgian copyright law prohibits the publishing of photos of architecture.

A pity really, because otherwise you could have taken a virtual tour of one of the politically strangest towns in the world.

See also: Murder on the border.


  1. Neil says:

    Cool. Thanks.

  2. Neil says:

    Amazing that the reproduction rights – the photographs – of architecture are controlled by the building owner? architect?

    How does this work in day-to-day personal photography of you and I having a picnic at the park surrounded by area residence?

  3. Branko Collin says:

    I am not Belgian, nor a lawyer, so could not tell. It may be that if the work in question is not the main subject of the photo though, you’d be in the clear. Hire a lawyer if you want to be sure. The author would generally be the controlling party, i.e. the architect, and one of two copyright agencies, SOFAM and SABAM, would be the ones collecting the money for them.

  4. Yes, in Belgium they have the rule that you can’t publish photos of architectural works (public works of art) without permission, except in the case that the work is “accidentally” on the photo and not the main subject. The Dutch abandoned this criterion in 2006.

    If you’re at a picnic and the Atomium happens to be in the background, you should be fine if you put the photo on Flickr. However, a “me & Branko at the Atomium” photo cannot be published without permission. In 2008 when the Atomium turned 50, a group of artists started a protest by photoshopping out the Atomium from all photos they could find.

  5. Branko Collin says:

    Hey, a real lawyer! :-) Thanks, Arnoud.

  6. Neil says:

    Thanks Arnoud. Thanks Branko.

  7. Claudia says:

    If you visit the following site, you’ll note Belgium is listed as one of the countries Google is/was photographing for Street View. Currently, they are not photographing any Belgian streets, but if I remember correctly, cities being digitally mapped were listed before the big WiFi-payload data debacle. Not sure how they can publish them legally per Arnoud’s post, though.


  8. […] For true border complications there’s always Baarle-Nassau, with its collection of Belgian enclaves that put Google Streetview to the test. […]

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