Monday, 29 September 2008

Marque's ad style irks Marx - artistic allies rally round

CNN Money reports that about $55,000 has been raised in an auction last week to help fund the copyright infringement action brought by Johannesburg-based artist Gerhard Marx against BMW South Africa which, he says, has stolen his "trademark style" for an advertising campaign. BMW SA denies liability. The trial takes place this October

More than 70 works by internationally acclaimed South Africans such as William Kentridge, Walter Battiss and Penny Siopis were sold, though a piece by Marx himself fetched the top price. The "trademark style" of Marx involves cutting up maps to create outlines of human figures. He claims that the 2006 advertising campaign imitated this style and is claiming $184,000 in damages.

Without having seen the allegedly infringing ads or having read the submissions, it is not possible to pass comment on the strength of Marx's case. However, the protection conferred by copyright generally extends only to works as specific objects of art and not to the style in which they are created; it may be wondered whether Marx's case might be argued in terms of "passing off" as well, in that people seeing the ads would assume that Marx had either created them or had endorsed BMW cars. There's certainly an element of damage here: the use of the style by BMW could make it unlikely that any other car maker would engage Marx to create advertisements for it.

More comments on Warren Siebrits' blog here. And thanks to Hugo Cox for forwarding the link to this item ...

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