DO NOTICE THAT THIS COURT RULING ONLY APPLIES WITHIN BELGIUM! SEEMS LIKE THE EUROPEAN COURTS HAVE RUN AMOK-FIRST IS AUTHENTICATORS NOW IT’S APPROPRIATION, DOES ANY ONE UNDERSTAND COPYRIGHT LAW? ANYWHERE?
PARIS — The Belgian artist Luc Tuymans faces fines of up to 500,000 euros (about $580,000), after a court ruled that his washed-out painting of a sweating politician is a copyright infringement that plagiarized a photo taken by a news photographer.
IS ARTISTIC PARODY DEAD?
If Mr. Tuymans reproduces or exhibits the work — a portrait of the Belgian politician Jean-Marie Dedecker — he faces a penalty for each copyright violation, according to Michaël De Vroey, who defended the artist in a civil court case in Antwerp.
The 2011 portrait, titled “A Belgian Politician,” is typical of Mr. Tuymans’s style. He has long culled images from television, film and old postcards to create new works with fleet brushstrokes. He used similar techniques to make a scowling portrait of the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
“We are very surprised. We think this photographer was not even known and was seeking publicity,” said Mr. De Vroey, who argued in court that “the format and color contrasts are different, so that no confusion could be possible.” The artist also insisted that it was a parody, an argument that failed to convince the judge, who also had to determine whether the work was humorous.
The original photo was taken in 2010 by the photojournalist Katrijn Van Giel, who works for the Flemish newspaper De Standaard.
Her lawyer, Dieter Delarue, said that after she discovered the portrait in a catalog she tried for more than a year to discuss it with the artist, who never responded to letters.
“When you are a movie producer, if you want to make something based on a book, you contact the author,” Mr. Delarue said. “It’s not so difficult. All artists do that except that Mr. Tuymans feels that this five-minute phone call somehow limits his freedom of expression.”
The work is owned by an American collector, Eric Lefkofsky, according to Mr. De Vroey, who added that the Belgian ruling will not have any effect on the painting outside that country.
But he said that it does raise questions about the future of “appropriation art,” a movement that deliberately copies and reworks popular images in culture and commerce to create new artworks. Other artists, such as Jeff Koons, have been the targets of copyright infringement claims. Last month a French advertising designer sued Mr. Koons for copying an ad he created in the 1980s to fashion a sculpture of a woman with a pig. The work has since been removed from an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Mr. De Vroey said that if other judges follow the same logic in other countries it could have an impact on contemporary art. “If artists can no longer use objects or photographs from other people to make their own art, then that is the end of appropriation art,” he said.
WELL, WE HAVE TO BELIEVE IT’S ART IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND PARODY HAS ALWAYS BEEN ALLOWED AS FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION. THIS IS REALLY A STUPID COURT DECISION.