Supreme Court finds in favour of newspaper in Little Mermaid copyright case

Following defeats in lower courts in 2020 and 2022, Berlingske newspaper celebrated victory today after it was acknowledged it hadn’t violated the Danish Copyright Act

For once, a court has ruled against the heirs of the sculptor who created The Little Mermaid, denying them yet another payday.

Use of the statue’s likeness is strictly prohibited in the media, unless it is a story directly concerning the statue created by Edvard Eriksen in 1913. Many have made the mistake of including it in material promoting Copenhagen – to their cost.

A copyright, which expires in 2029 some 70 years after Eriksen’s death, is fiercely protected by Eriksen’s heirs, some 110 years after its creation – earning  them untold amounts in royalties.

And it looked like Berlingske newspaper was the latest to have to pay out – after the city and high courts found in the heirs’ favour.

A victory for satire
But the Supreme Court has today found in favour of the newspaper, ruling it was within its right to use the statue’s likeness on two occasions.

In 2019, it depicted the statue as a zombie in a cartoon, and then in 2020, it displayed a photo of the statue wearing a facemask to illustrate a corona scepticism story. 

Previously, Berlingske had been found in violation of the Danish Copyright Act in 2020 and 2022, but today was a time for celebration.

Editor Tom Jensen called it “a very happy day – not just for us, but for all media in Denmark”, adding that the judgment had lifted a shadow off the future of satirical cartoons in particular.