Danish court upholds senseless ‘Little Mermaid’ copyright ruling against newspaper for cartoon


from under-the-‘c’ department

If you haven’t been a Techdirt reader for a long time, you’ll probably hear me say that there’s a copyright infringement lawsuit in Denmark and you’ll immediately wonder, “Yeesh, what the hell Disney did now?” But this is not a story about Disney. This is the story of the heirs of Edvard Eriksen, creator of a bronze statue of The Little Mermaid, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale, and their inability to let anyone portray the statue or anything. either of similar without being accosted in action in matter of copyright. Most of the bullying by Eriksen’s heirs has been, incredibly, against other cities around the world for creating their own Little Mermaid statues: Greenville, Michigan and the Danish town of Asaa for example.

But less known are all the times Eriksen’s heirs have searched publications for showing images or other depictions of the statue. I won’t pretend to be an expert on Danish copyright, but if the laws of this country are such that a newspaper or magazine cannot show a picture of one of the country’s most famous landmarks, then this law is stupid and should be changed or amended. Lest you think I must be wrong, you can see a recent history of not one, but two courts that have ruled that a newspaper must compensate the heirs of Eriksen for a cartoon depicting the statue on its pages.

An appeal court in Denmark has increased the compensation a newspaper was ordered to pay for infringing the copyright of the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen with a cartoon depicting the bronze monument as of a zombie and a photo of it with a face mask.

The Berlingske newspaper published the cartoon in 2019 to illustrate an article about Denmark’s debate culture and used the photo in 2020 to depict a connection between the far right and people fearing COVID-19.

For those of us reading this news in America, as well as many other countries, it all sounds completely laughable. It’s purely free speech, protected in America by the First Amendment. Even beyond that, a caricature of a statue isn’t a recreation of that statue, so copyright wouldn’t even really apply. Also, it’s parody and used for commentary. Nothing about it makes sense.

And yet, it has to be in Denmark, because this 2nd court not only upheld the decision of the lower court, but in fact increases the compensation the newspaper was ordered to pay to Eriksen’s heirs.

Both cases were found to be violations of Danish copyright law. The Copenhagen District Court in 2020 ordered the newspaper to pay the heirs of Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen 285,000 crowns ($44,000) in compensation. The appeals court on Wednesday raised the amount to 300,000 crowns ($46,000).

In a statement, the Danish capital’s Eastern High Court agreed with the lower court that “there had been copyright infringement” in the newspaper’s actions. She did not give a reason for increasing the amount of compensation, but noted that Berlingske was a commercial enterprise. because he wants to sell newspapers.

Again, this is all nonsense. If the above rulings are truly in line with Danish copyright law, all of this suggests that there must be an active movement in Denmark to change the law. And, to make it even more frustrating, Denmark’s copyright protections are familiar: 70 years after the author’s death. In this case, that means Eriksen’s heirs will only have this ability to defraud others for cash payments for the statue for another seven years.

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Filed Under: cartoon, copyright, denmark, erik eriksen, the little mermaid, diaries


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