Jeff Koons is once again facing a claim of copyright infringement, this time in a French court.  The focus of the claim is around his sculpture, Fait d’Hiver.

Fait d'Hiver

It is one of three, one of which was currently on exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris until it was pulled as a result of the copyright infringement claim.  The claim is by Franck Davidovici, who created this advertising campaign for the French clothing company, Naf Naf:

Naf Naf Advertising

Koons has quite a history of copyright infringement claims.  He has been sued three other times, and has lost two of those claims.  This is being pursued in a French court, so I do not know what elements a French court would look at, but if this was a US court, it would look to see if Koons’ work transformed the original work to a degree that a whole new work was created.  In his sculpture, he kept much of the same material, but added what looks to be flowers around the pig’s neck and two penguins.  He also changed the outfit that the woman is wearing.  Other than that, little else is different.  Even the name of Koons’ piece is found in the advertising.  In a US court he would be facing a very uphill battle to prove that these additional elements are enough to transform his work.

The stakes in the French case are very high.  Davidovici is asking that the work be confiscated and that all profits made from its sale and exhibition be turned over to him.  He’s also asking for damages.  Should the French court agree that Koons infringed his copyright and grants him damages, Koons could be looking at liability in the millions of dollars.

Koons’ cases stand as a warning to all artists who wish to use another’s work within their own.  Appropriating the entire piece and making only superficial changes will most likely end up with a claim of copyright infringement.