The use of others’ intellectual works in advertising contents

The boundary separating a legitimate reproduction of an iconic design work from the illicit exploiting for promotional purposes is very feeble. It is necessary to distinguish a justified and accidental reproduction from the intentional use aimed at gaining advantage from others’ reputation.

An important Paris ruling has recently intervened on this matter, reaffirming and clarifying some aspects.

The “Lyre” lamp case

The Court of Appeal of Paris was called to rule upon the case promoted by a French visual artist-sculptor against a Swiss interior designer. The case concerned the protest of the French artist for the unauthorized reproduction of the “Lyre” lamp that the Swiss designer had minimally modified and published for promotional purposes on two posts on his social accounts.

The Parisian Court confirmed the decision of the first instance judgement, which recognized the lamp as an original work of great aesthetic value and, therefore, worthy of protection under the French Copyright Law, considering as irrelevant the minimal modifications made by the Swiss designer.

The decision, moreover, established that the use of the images of the lamp at issue constituted a violation of the right to reproduction of the author as well as a violation of his moral rights, as in none of his posts, the Swiss designer had mentioned the artist author of the protected work.

The principles applied

There is a similarity between the juridical principles applied by the Court of Appeal of Paris and those that would have been applied in case the proceeding was before an Italian court.

In particular, also according to the Italian law, the iconic design works can benefit from copyright protection, pursuant to art. 2 of the Italian Copyright Law, if they have creative character and artistic value. Moreover, the unauthorized reproduction by third parties in the contest of promoting goods and services is lawful only if accidental and not predominant. On the contrary, it is necessary to obtain the explicit consent of the author to use the work.

Lastly, the lack of mentioning of the author can constitute a violation of the moral rights of the author.

The implications deriving from such violations entail important legal consequences, including damage compensation and publication of the related ruling.


Elena Bandinelli