If You Try to Publish a Picture of this Statue in Denmark, You’d Better be Ready to Pay Up


One of Denmark’s most photographed attractions, a Little Mermaid statue, comes with a strange caveat: it can’t be photographed. Or rather, a photograph of it can’t be used in a publication of any sort, even for journalistic purposes, without a big fat invoice finding its way to your door.

You see, the family of sculptor Edvard Erikson, the man who created the iconic Little Mermaid statue, is known for being extremely protective and aggressive about the statue’s copyright. As a result, a number of Danish news and media outlets have received massive invoices for using a photo of the Little Mermaid, despite it being one of the country’s most viewed and photographed attractions.

A trifecta of Danish newspapers have been fined in the past for using the photos, with one particular invoice coming in at approximately $1,800 for the use of an image of the statue in a story a number of years ago. The photo editor of Berlingske, the newspaper who received the above fine, recently told The Local:

We used a photo without asking for permission. That was apparently a clear violation of copyright laws, even though I honestly have a hard time understanding why one can’t use photos of a national treasure like the Little Mermaid without violating copyright laws

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According to copyright law, photos of the Little Mermaid and other public pieces of art can’t be used for business purposes. And, in Denmark, use of images in media is indeed considered a ‘business purpose,’ leaving little wiggle room for the outlets to argue.

And while there are said to be exceptions to this law when the photos are used in a ‘news context,’ as The Local points out, Danish outlets tend to just play it safe these days. Not even The Local used a picture of the statue in their story about the copyright issues surrounding the statue.

The granddaughter of the sculptor, Alice Eriksen, has gone on the defense multiple times, stating to Politiken that they’re “just following the country’s laws […] It’s the same as receiving royalties when a song is played.”

But regardless of what analogy you prefer to use, we suggest you keep your photos of the Little Mermaid to yourself if you have any… the Eriksen family means business.

(via The Local)

Image credits: Illustration based on The Little Mermaid by Placeboe

  • Rob Elliott

    Thanks I knew it looked wrong, I’m dealing a medication that is causing some confusion issues, it’s been bugging me and I just couldn’t come up with why… super frustrating.

  • Rob Elliott

    You are right, in that they aren’t physically the same thing.. but they are the same in that they are both commercial uses.. and both a violation.

  • Rob Elliott

    Not being an american and not being a lawyer, I don’t know to be honest, I’m just going based on basic practices. I really want to update my self on the Canadian Laws.

    I’m actually reading and article in the Journal of Law and Policy about that case right now, because I like research. Which may show I’m wrong, which would be great. :)

  • Kenneth Sørensen

    Oh… Well that is just what I’ve read in a Danish newspaper that interviewed the granddaughter of the original artist. I’m not sure who’s right, the newspaper could be mistaken too. Anyways, it isn’t that important. Have a great day :)

  • Guest

    Well, that’s not good for me then.

  • Rob Elliott

    I was only commenting on US law. Each nation has it’s own unique laws. As much as I like research I’m not going to go through them all ;) But that is good to know.

  • David Sorcher

    I would love to take your word on that Rob, but ii believe that that art prints are dealt with differently than other “commercial” uses. An art print is not the same as mass producing greeting cards or posters with the image on it. I have serious doubts that i would have any problem selling an art print of the Flatiron building in a gallery. Limited art prints are not the same as mass production in the commercial sense. Though frankly, if you google “Flatiron building photo art prints” you will even find countless examples of mass produced posters available for sale, so either the owners of the copyright to the building don’t care or all these photographers are paying a royalty to them, which i kind of doubt.

  • Josh Wahawa Ruchty

    So you have a montage of the image in the article?

  • tonycece

    Based on the comments here, it sounds like we all want the right to have no rights – everything should be ours, but we get those rights by negating someone else rights to it and so on it goes. Am I understanding most of you correctly? Would you claim copyright to your photo of it if someone else saw it online and shared it without asking on their site?

  • Rob Elliott

    I understand where you are coming from but they have gone after people who have used the image. Mickey Mouse is a Trademarked item too but it is in places it shouldn’t..

    Just because you are violating the copyright doesn’t mean they are going to come after you. They can. If they will or not isn’t up to me.

    I know they have gone after law firms, and other Commercial work. I don’t know US law well enough to say with Certainty.. go try to sell it in a gallery in the city.. they will likely know better then some jerk on the internet. I’m not an expert by any means. Though as I understand the term Commercial.. Art is still commercial as far as copyright and trademark is concerned.

  • Rob Elliott

    just for the sake of my own understanding I still went looking.

    Until 2005 this trademark was active.
    The mark consists of the two-dimensional depiction of a skyscraper, triangular in shape, divided into three sections with surface ornamentation consisting of medallions containing masks or fleur-de-lis, heavily ornamented oriel windows and a projecting roof decorated with a dentil pattern. The lining and stippling are features of the mark and do not indicate color.

    and applied to damn near everything including:

    mounted photographs, unmounted photographs, portraits

    as it was “abandoned” in 2005 it is no longer valid.

    the current trademark doesn’t seem to apply to Photographs.. that I can find right now.

  • Dario Toledo

    Too late, and I don’t think I’ll delete mine.
    Why don’t they put it within some museum if they don’t want it to be photographed.

  • Graham

    I would if the exhibition was on private property with disclaimers at the entrance stating no photography allowed.