• Denmark's news in English
 

Denmark's icon... that we can't show you

Published: 16 Aug 2014 10:18 GMT+02:00

Earlier this week, The Local reported that Seoul’s mayor wants a miniature version of Copenhagen’s famous Little Mermaid statue for his own city. 
 
Rather than illustrate the photo with a beautiful picture of the sculpture – thousands of which can be found all over the internet – we chose a photo in which the famous landmark was surrounded by tourists and thus not the main focus of the image. 
 
There was a reason for that. The family of sculptor Edvard Eriksen is known for being very aggressive about the sculpture’s copyright and numerous Danish media outlets have received a large bill in the mail for using a photo of the Little Mermaid – even though it is arguably the most recognisable image in all of Denmark. 
 
The newspapers Politiken, Berlingske and the now-closed Nyhedsavisen have all been fined for using an image of the Little Mermaid. Berlingske had to pay 10,000 kroner ($1,800) for using a photo of the statue in connection with a 2005 story on Denmark’s tourism industry. 
 
“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,” Berlingske’s photo editor, Søren Lorentzen, told the journalism trade magazine Journalisten in 2007. 
 
David Trads, a political commentator for TV2 and an occasional contributor to The Local, was fined twice for using a photo of the Little Mermaid while editor-in-chief for Nyhedsavisen. 
 
“It’s absurd that some lazy heirs should make a fortune on a little statue that sits out in the sea,” he told Journalisten. 
 
The copyright laws stipulate that photos of the Little Mermaid and other public art cannot be used for business purposes when the artwork is the main focus of the photo. Use in media is considered a ‘business purpose’ under the law. There are exceptions for using the photos if there is a clear ‘news context’ but even then many Danish outlets are hesitant to use the Little Mermaid for fear of an unexpected bill. 
 
That hesitation was on display last week in connection with the Seoul story. It wasn’t just The Local that decided not to publish a portrait of the Little Mermaid. At Politiken, they used a photo of a tourist posing nearby, Ekstra Bladet used a photo in which the statue was out of focus, Danmarks Radio used a photo packed with tourists, while other outlets ran no photo at all
 
The chairman of the press photographers’ association Pressefotografforbundet said it was “a bit grotesque” that the Danish media needs to be so careful about using photos of the Little Mermaid.
 
“As photographers, we have great respect for copyright, which we ourselves benefit from. But the Little Mermaid is maybe the most frequently photographed motif in Copenhagen so it’s a bit grotesque that you need to be so careful using the photo editorially,” Lars Lindskov told Politiken last year in a story about the copyright issues (which was illustrated with this photo). 
 
Alice Eriksen, the granddaughter of the original sculptor, defended the family’s practice by telling Politiken they were “just following the country’s laws”.
 
“It’s the same as receiving royalties when a song is played,” she said. 
 
The Eriksen family has declined to say how much money they make off of royalties from the Little Mermaid. 

For more stories about Denmark, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Denmark celebrates 70 years of freedom
Every May 4th, Danes light candles to mark their liberation but this year there is much more on tap. Photo: JENS NØRGAARD LARSEN/Scanpix

Denmark celebrates 70 years of freedom

From resistance fighter payouts to flyovers from historic military jets and a reenactment of the German invasion, Danes nationwide used Monday to commemorate their liberation from the Nazis. READ  

This day in history
'The Germans have surrendered'
Danes took to the streets of Copenhagen to celebrate their liberation. Photo: Nationalmuseet/Flickr

'The Germans have surrendered'

Exactly 70 years ago on Monday, Denmark was liberated from German occupation and light returned to Danish cities after five years of darknesses. READ  

Opinion
Can the Mediterranean drownings be stopped?
More than 1,700 migrants have died in the Mediterranean so far in 2015. Photo: Darrin Zammut Lupi/MOAS.EU/dpa/Scanpix

Can the Mediterranean drownings be stopped?

No one would argue that nothing should be done about the urgent plight of the thousands of asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean. Morten Kjærum, the new director of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, says that European countries need to pull together to save refugees’ lives. READ  

Anti-Semetic vandalism of Copenhagen church
Anna Church had windows smashed and anti-Semitic messages painted on its door. Photo: Erik Refner/Scanpix

Anti-Semetic vandalism of Copenhagen church

Anna Church in the Copenhagen district of Nørrebro was vandalized Sunday in an apparent act of anti-Semitism. READ  

Danes develop effective chlamydia vaccine
In Denmark, it is primarily young people who get infected with chlaymdia. Photo: Colourbox

Danes develop effective chlamydia vaccine

A team from the University of Copenhagen and the Danish State Serum Institute are preparing human trials for a promising vaccine against a disease that infects over 100 million people each year. READ  

Is the reign of the Danish male executive over?
Danish boardrooms are becoming more diverse. Photo: Colourbox

Is the reign of the Danish male executive over?

The typical Danish boardroom is becoming less of an old boys’ club as more and more women and foreigners take up board positions in the nation’s largest firms. READ  

The Danish Way
What Americans can learn from humble Danes
The author contends that Danes are less likely to drop 'A-bombs' on each other. Photo: Colourbox

What Americans can learn from humble Danes

The Local's new opinion columnist Jessica Alexander writes that her fellow Americans would benefit from taking a lesson in humility from the Danes. READ  

Denmark’s Great Prayer Day: 7 things to know
Great Prayer Day is still a big day for confirmations. Photo: Colourbox

Denmark’s Great Prayer Day: 7 things to know

Friday is a national holiday, but just what is Great Prayer Day and what’s the deal with those wheat buns? Here is The Local’s guide to this special Danish day. READ  

Denmark’s green energy exports set record
The bulk of the energy technology exports went to Germany. Photo: Colourbox

Denmark’s green energy exports set record

Danish companies that produce energy technology exported 10.7 percent more in 2014 than the year before, setting an all-time export record. READ  

Maersk 'insists' Iran release crew and ship
Maersk said it couldn't comment on the alleged $3.6 million ruling. Photo: Torben Huss/Scanpix

Maersk 'insists' Iran release crew and ship

After Iran says a court has ordered A.P. Moeller-Maersk to pay $3.6 million over a cargo spat, the Danish company pleas for the crew of the Maersk Tigris to be released. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Historic photos: Denmark celebrates 70 years of freedom
Features
How to make Danish buns for Great Prayer Day
Technology
The Viking Age began in Denmark much earlier than thought
National
The world's happiest country is...
National
New warnings: ‘Denmark will be hit by a terror attack’
National
Danes' cycling habits hit 20-year high
National
Danish free speech fight continues after attacks
VIDEO: Denmark honours Queen Margrethe on her 75th birthday
Scandinavian airlines change cockpit rules after Germanwings crash
National
Queen Margrethe wades in to immigration debate
International
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear attack
Denmark gets a cloudy glimpse at historic solar eclipse
Politics
Denmark to immigrants: 'You must contribute'
Travel
Sorry Stockholm, but Copenhagen is the true capital of Scandinavia
Education
Porn in public schools? Denmark is considering it
Culture
Hvabehar?!? Not even the Danes can understand Danish
Society
Prince Consort Henrik: 'I should be king'
Business & Money
Silicon Viborg! Apple invests billions in new Danish data centre
"Denmark is making windmill history"
National
"Denmark is making windmill history"
Photo: REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger/Scanpix
National
As it happened: Denmark rocked by terror attack
Business & Money
The most powerful brand in the world is Danish
Technology
Meet the Dane who is a finalist to spend the rest of his life on Mars
Copenhagen attacks renew integration debate
National
Copenhagen attacks renew integration debate
National
A portrait of modern Denmark in ten stats
National
Timeline of Copenhagen attacks: terror into the night
Business & Money
Introducing The Local's employee advice column
Immigration in Denmark at an all-time high
National
Immigration in Denmark at an all-time high
Denmark's energy use at 42-year low
National
Denmark's energy use at 42-year low
VIDEO: Copenhagen's moving circle bridge
Travel
Copenhagen gets even cooler: New moving circle bridge coming
Denmark to target anti-radicalization at kids
National
Denmark to target anti-radicalization at kids
'Fastest archer alive' wins YouTube fame
Society
'Fastest archer alive' wins YouTube fame
Ten Danish words the world should start using
Society
Ten Danish words the world should start using
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Denmark world's best country for business
Features
Denmark is the world's best country for business
How to make sense of Denmark's climate impact
Features
Green leader or environmental pig? Denmark's climate impact decoded
Muhammad cartoonist draws Paris response
Muhammad cartoonist draws Charlie Hebdo response
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Introducing The Local's job advice column
Business & Money
Introducing The Local's job advice column
Denmark's jihadist rehab: homework, football and Islam
National
Denmark's jihadist rehab: homework, football and Islam
Denmark passes dual citizenship bill
National
"A great day for expats" – Denmark passes dual citizenship bill
Danish bike culture even cooler than you thought
Society
Danish bike culture even more amazing than you thought
No Danish? No problem!
Education
No Danish? No problem! Danes are world champs at English
Can you pass the Danish citizenship test?
Society
Could YOU be a Dane? Take our citizenship test and find out
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

2,289
jobs available
?>