The handing over of paintings for scrapping is not an assignment of ownership or copyright in the works. A new Supreme Court judgment establishes that such abandonment does not imply a right to sell the paintings.

A painter who had rented a studio left behind 14 paintings on vacation of the premises. The artist wanted the paintings to be destroyed because the paintings were unfinished and in discord with the artist's other produced works of art.

However, the paintings were not destroyed, and after a couple of years another tenant who had rented the premises after the artist succeeded in selling two of the paintings at the Bruun Rasmussen auction house.

The case was brought before the district court, the High Court and eventually the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found that the abandonment of scrapped paintings in an artist's studio is not an indication that the artist has made the copyrighted paintings available for free possession. Accordingly, the abandonment did not give the landlord or others the right to appropriate the pictures as owners and sell or bring the paintings into circulation.

The Supreme Court established that an infringement of the painter's copyright(1) had occurred and therefore the paintings should be returned to the artist. The artist was even awarded remuneration of Dkr20,000, which was the amount that the artist had claimed.

This judgment strengthens the protection(2) of artists' works and illustrates a central element of copyright - namely, the scope of the protection of such works.

For further information on this topic please contact Lisa Webster at Philip Law Firm by telephone (+45 33 13 11 12), by fax (+45 33 32 80 45) or by email ([email protected]).


(1) Copyright is a form of protection provided to the author or creator of an original work.

(2) Any literary or artistic work is protected. It is a fundamental condition of copyright protection that the work is original. A work can be original only if it is the result of independent creative effort. The author or creator has the exclusive right to make copies of the work and make the work available to the public.