Hirst rights case holds lessons for designers

An out of court settlement between artist Damien Hirst and Norman Emms, the designer of a £14.99 children’s anatomy toy, could hold important lessons for designers, according to pressure group Anti Copying in Design.

Hirst paid an undisclosed sum to a charity chosen by the Humbrol designer after conceding that he used his design for the 7m high sculpture Hymn – an artificial torso and body parts. It was bought by art collector Charles Saatchi earlier this year for £1m.

Although it sets no legal precedent, had the case gone to court it could have resulted in a ruling on the appropriate value of the license fee which should normally have been paid to the designer.

Acid lawyer Simon Clark estimates it would have been 10-15 per cent of the sculpture’s value: between £100 000-£150 000.

“I don’t suppose there are any other similar cases to this, so it would be for the court to decide how much would be paid to the designer,” says Clark.

“The correct course is always to approach the designer. Very often a designer will be delighted to co-operate and might well give you a better deal that way,” he says.

Clark suggests that had the case been defended in court it may well have centred around the technicalities of design rights, copyrights and whether or not the toy could fall under the definition of a sculpture.

“A design right doesn’t last as long as a copyright, it is normally for ten years, whereas a copyright is normally for 25. But a one-off sculpture would last for the life of the designer plus 70 years,” he explains.

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