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Churchill sculptor’s victory in court

ucylcjh3 August 2015

A Copyright dispute has been the subject of court hearings in Paris, which sheds an interesting light on French copyright law. French sculptor, Jean Cardot was incensed when Nike (together with an events company) organised a publicity stunt which involved dressing Cardot’s statute of Churchill in an oversize basketball jersey to celebrate the success of the French national team in 2011. The statue is situated on Avenue Winston Churchill in Paris.

Nike used images of the statue thus attired in the no. 9 basketball jersey for publicity purposes. For a report with pictures see the Independent. The Tribunal de Grande Instance found that Nike had infringed Cardot’s copyright and also his moral rights as the “auteur” of the statue, since he was not acknowledged as its creator. Interestingly, moral rights are perpetual in French law whereas in the UK they have they same duration as copyright.

Not satisfied with this initial result, Jean Cardot launched an appeal claiming that the damages awarded against Nike should have been higher. He was again successful at the Paris Cour d’Appel and the award was duly increased. Nike and their events company were each ordered to pay Jean Cardot 60,000 Euros for copyright infringement and 7,500 Euros for infringement of moral rights. The court took into account the commercial use which Nike had made of the pictures of the stunt and the fact that the events company had received a substantial fee for their part in organising it.

Would a similar action have succeeded in the UK? It seems unlikely. UK copyright law includes a specific exception for representations of works of art which are on permanent display in public places (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act section 62).