The new sculpture, titled Mod Hjemve, or Towards homecoming”, was placed in Asaa harbour four years ago, and shows a mermaid looking like it has just swum in from the sea.
But the heirs of Edvard Eriksen, the Danish artist who created the mermaid erected on Copenhagen’s Langelinie promenade in 1913, complained this month in a letter to the local mayor that the Asaa mermaid was too similar to the Copenhagen one and demanded that it be removed and destroyed.
“I must admit that I could not help but laugh a little when I received the inquiry. A cow is a cow, and a mermaid is a mermaid,” Mikael Klitgaard, the mayor of Asaa’s Brønderslev municipality, told the Danish broadcaster TV2.
“One cannot patent an entire species of animal, and by the way, I do not think the two mermaids are similar at all. Ours is more plump and has a completely different face.”
Palle Mørk, the artist who made the new mermaid, strongly denied modelling his sculpture on Eriksen’s.
“I just didn’t do it, not by any means. It doesn’t look the same at all,” he complained. “My mermaid is made of granite and not bronze, and it is more than twice as big as the one in Copenhagen. Mine is also plumper, and the facial expression and hair are different.”
When TV2 pointed out that the two mermaids were sitting in a very similar way, he retorted, “well, how the hell should a mermaid sit on a rock? She doesn’t have legs, but fins. You cannot have a patent on mermaids.”
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Stina Teilmann-Lock, an academic at Copenhagen Business School who studies the history of copyright, said that Eriksen’s heirs were particularly zealous when it came to protecting their copyright.
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.
In 2009, the heirs demanded a licensing fee from the town of Greenville in Michigan which had erected a mermaid statue to celebrate its Danish heritage.
Thomas Nymann, chairman of the board at Asaa Havn, said that the media coverage in Denmark had led to a temporary increase in tourism, but said he hoped the publicity would not harm his talks with the heirs.
“The more life we can get at the port, the better! I do not know if I would use the word ‘boom’, but the other day there was a tourist bus from Korsør that wanted to see the mermaid,” he told DR.
He said that the heirs were demanding that the harbour remove the statue and also that it pay them a fee, something he said the harbour town could not afford.
According to DR, the café on the harbour, Cafe Hawblik, has stayed open longer into August than it normally does because of the curious visitors, and even put a mermaid sandwich on the menu.
“My partner jumped on the idea straight away and made a mermaid sandwich, which were selling like hot cakes fright from the start,” said café owner Allan Legaard Hansen.