A New York-based group that tries to protect the copyrights of thousands of artists is demanding nearly four-thousand dollars from a Michigan town for a statute that’s very similiar to a bronze statue in a small western Iowa community.
In 1913, the "Little Mermaid" statue was erected in Copenhagen, Denmark to celebrate the work of Danish author Hans Christian Anderson. Many North American communities, like Greenville, Michigan, have celebrated their Danish heritage by erecting a likeness of the "Little Mermaid."
Annette Anderson of Kimballton says about 30 years ago, an art student made her town’s replica which stands in the city park. "We’ve all seen pictures of the one in Copenhagen Harbor, so we know what it looks like. Sizewise, she’s pretty much the same," Anderson says.
"We’re a very small community. We’re very proud of our Danish heritage and that is why we have our mermaid." A few years ago the "Little Mermaid" in Kimballton was resculpted in bronze. Anderson says they got the permission of the former art student who made Kimballton’s "Little Mermaid."
"We were very careful, when we wanted to recast our statue, that we did it correctly," she says. It was hard to raise $40,000 for that project, according to Anderson, and she says it would be hard to raise the money for a licensing fee.
The fee would go to the family of the artist who made the original "Little Mermaid" in Denmark 96 years ago. Anderson learned of the controversy when she got a call from a Wall Street Journal reporter.
"It was a shock to us," Anderson says. "We had never heard of anything like this." Danish artist Edward Eriksen created the "Little Mermaid" in 1913. The "Artists Rights Society" in New York has told the town in Michigan it must pay a 38-hundred dollar licensing fee, or take down its "unlicensed reproduction" of the famous statue.
Eriksen died in 1959 and the New York group claims copyrights on an artist’s work last for 70 years after their death. That means the copyright on Eriksen’s "Little Mermaid" would last until 2029.