Tuesday 3 December 2019

Artwork cannot be cut up to realize watch faces, Danish court rules

Paris Chic, Tal R, 2017

Copenhagen's maritime and commercial court was recently asked to decide whether Dann Thorleifsson and Arne Leivsgard - a duo of Faroese art provocateurs and founders of Kankse and Letho watch brands - could cut up Tal R's artwork "Paris chic", which the duo had purchased last August for 70,000 £ at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London. The duo wanted the painting fragments to decorate the faces of their latest watches, each of which they planned to sell for at least DK 10,000. 

The Danish court issued a ruling yesterday in favor of the Danish artist. Consequently, the two watch designers cannot use Tal R's painting as a raw material and have to pay DK 31,550 in legal costs.

The Danish court awarded an injunction under the Danish Act on Copyright, protecting copyrights and moral rights. Indeed, the Court accepted Tal R's argument that the duo's project would have been an illicit alteration of the artist's work rather than a destruction of same, as contrarily argued by the duo's lawyers. Tal R's lawyer alleged that the watch brand planned to market the watches as fragments of a Tal R's work. The artist's lawyer also argued that whilst the purchasers of Tal R's art could sell it or even destroy it, they could not alter it, as to do so would infringe Danish copyright law. 

While the duo is still considering whether to appeal the ruling or to reach a settlement, this case questions again the boundaries of  copyright and ownership of artworks, and namely whether a work of art can be freely destroyed by its owner. In this last regard, the answer seems to differ from country to country: in Denmark, for instance, is considered permissible

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