When you own an artwork, you don’t own the copyright: Danish artist wins injunction against watchmakers planning to cut up painting

From The IPKat:

On Monday, 2 December 2019, the Danish Maritime and Commercial High Court issued a ruling in a case which explores the fine line between destruction and alteration of existing artwork. The conclusion? Cutting up an existing artwork to repurpose the individual pieces as wristwatch faces constitutes reproduction of the work in an amended form – not destruction followed by the creation of a new, original work.

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In the case in question, the Danish artist Tal Rosenzweig (better known as “Tal R”) had requested a preliminary injunction against the Danish company, Kanske Denmark ApS (“Kanske”), to prevent it from cutting up the painting “Paris Chic”, created by Tal R, in order to insert the pieces into wristwatches. In addition, Tal R had also separately requested preliminary injunctions against the manufacture, sale and marketing by Kanske of such wristwatches.

In the injunction requests, Tal R claimed primarily that the intended use of his “Paris Chic” painting by the company would constitute an infringement of his copyright to the work, reasoning that it would violate his exclusive rights under section 2(1) of the Danish Copyright Act “to control the work by reproducing it and by making it available to the public, whether in the original or in an amended form […]” as well as his rights under section 3(2) of the Act, according to which “[t]he work must not be altered nor made available to the public in a manner or in a context which is prejudicial to the author’s literary or artistic reputation or individuality”.

Tal R further claimed that by marketing and offering for sale the wristwatches (even though none had actually been made, and the painting was therefore yet unharmed), Kanske had violated section 3(1) of the Danish Marketing Practices Act, according to which “[t]raders shall exercise good marketing practice with reference to consumers, other traders and public interests”, as well as section 22(1) of the Act, which states that “[t]raders must not use business identifiers and similar devices that do not belong to them […]”. Specifically, Tal R claimed that Kanske had made unauthorized use of the “Tal R” brand in its marketing, thereby implying that a commercial partnership existed between Tal R and the company.

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After acquiring the painting, Kanske had initially announced on its website that it would host an online auction, promising that the winner would be given first choice of which piece of the painting he or she desired for a wristwatch. According to one screen shot submitted by Tal R, the highest bid as of 11 November 2019 was DKK 41,000 (approximately EUR 5,467).

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According to screen shots submitted by Tal R, the company went on to claim, inter alia, that the purpose of the project was to “arouse emotions”, and that “there can also be strength in the grief that people will feel at losing something. There can be a catharsis in people getting angry at us for doing something that people think is forbidden.

Link to the rest at The IPKat

2 thoughts on “When you own an artwork, you don’t own the copyright: Danish artist wins injunction against watchmakers planning to cut up painting”

  1. Glad the artist found out before the painting was vandalized. I am appalled at the buyers’ callous disregard for the IP.

    Imagine how much money buyers of, say, a Rembrandt could make by selling it in little pieces – ‘so everyone can afford a Rembrandt’ or some such unbelievable nonsense.

  2. My husband is an artist, and it surprises us a bit that many people – including other artists – don’t know that they retain copyright in an image, even if they sell it. Or at least they do here in the UK. Not sure what the situation is elsewhere but presumably Denmark is the same. I can see how this was a challenging case though and glad the artist won. There’s a lot of vandalism out there – people buy very old illuminated books that have survived for hundreds of years, chop them up and sell the individual illustrations. Appalling.

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