13 Aug

But I Didn’t Know It Was a Copyright Infringement

Copyright is the legal right of the owner of an intellectual property. It stands to determine who can copy or use the products of creative human activity of an individual and to what extent, usually for a limited number of years. This means the original creators and the people who have taken the authorization are the only ones with the right to reproduce or copy the work.

We have one of many cases about copyright infringement in front of us to learn from. A chinese artist based out of Berlin, Ai Wewei, recently pressed charges against a dealer of a famous brand of cars company for infringement of copyrights. So, what had happened was…

Ai Wewei created an installation at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen – gallery of the Royal Danish Academy of Art to portray the plight of refugees. He used the bright orange life jackets worn by refugees on their perilous journey on Berlin’s Konzerthaus concert hall. The installation was created by stuffing the life-jackets into the facade of the museum. He called it Soleil Levant – Sunrise.

The car dealer created an advertisement by having one of the cars photographed in front of the artwork of Ai Wewei. The artist had created that artwork to highlight the plight of the refugees and it was being used as a backdrop for a car, for commercial purposes. The artist was very offended and decided to pursue a legal case of copyright infringement. Ai Wewei took the dealer to court as he felt this was a violation of his rights.

Who do you think won? Of course the artist! There were multiple elements which favoured Ai Wewei’s side. Firstly, it was a matter of infringement of copyright. Secondly, the artist’s moral right was also violated. Thirdly, damage was caused to his reputation. The court took all the elements into consideration and awarded the artist 1.75 million Danish Krone ($260,000).

Before you use someone else’s work for commercial purposes, it is better to seek a professional’s opinion. You might be unknowingly indulging in copyright infringement. Respect artists’ work so that we end up creating better quality literary work rather than causing hindrance to the same. Avoid a lawsuit, check twice for legalities before using someone’s piece of creative work!

Section 52 (s), (t), and (u) of the Indian copyright act, excludes certain acts connected with artistic works “situated in public” especially if it is incidental to the work including it, under certain circumstances. However, it does not allow unrestricted use of such artistic and architectural works.