Artnet to appeal against court copyright ruling

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Jacob Pabst photographed by Karin Kohlberg

Online art database artnet says it will appeal against the recent court ruling that it must pay a photographer for use of photographs he took for auction house catalogues.

Stéphane Briolant’s photographs of furniture were reproduced along with sales results on artnet Price Database. The Paris court of appeal has ordered artnet AG, artnet France Sarl and Artnet Worldwide Corporation to pay € 764,412 to Briolant for use of these images.

“Unfortunately this French court decision overturns a previous ruling by a lower court, which had come down in favour of artnet and the free use of images from auction house sales in conjunction with price and image database usage,” said Jacob Pabst, artnet’s CEO . “We firmly believe that this latest decision is misguided, and we will file an appeal.”

The Court was convinced that artnet AG, artnet France Sarl and Artnet Worldwide Corporation have infringed the copyright of Stéphane Briolant in France by publishing his photographs in the artnet Price Database.

“This court seems to want to extend systematic copyright protection to any photograph, whether technical or a true work of art, with no consideration of the resulting economic impact,” said Pabst. “Even if such an approach were to be legally grounded under existing French copyright law, it would not be economically sustainable if the judges do not make a fair appreciation of the market value of those photographs.

“Creative work must be protected of course, but not in a counter-productive way that damages the very economic foundations that provide income to the creative community. Otherwise everyone loses, artists and photographers included.”

He added that the ruling threatens art market price transparency.

“Creative work must be protected of course, but not in a counter-productive way that damages the very economic foundations that provide income to the creative community. Otherwise everyone loses, artists and photographers included.”

He said that the images in the price database are used for identification of the price only. They are not reproduced in their own right. artnet pays the relevant artists rights societies in respective countries for the copyright of the artists—the people who made the artwork in the illustrative pictures.

“If price database businesses are forced to significantly raise their rates, the victims would be the public and all the art market stakeholders, who would suffer from the reduced levels of transparency, the same transparency that has enabled the growth of that market. We are confident that in the end our perspective will prevail,” he said.

He added that the company will intensely evaluate the appropriate financial classification of this matter. Based on currently available information and their first review, the creation of a provision for the fine is to be assumed in the amount of € 0.8 million for the 2014 fiscal year.