Friday 24 January 2014

Dressing up as Pippi Longstocking Does not Infringe Copyright

Carnival season is approaching and it was time for the BGH to provide the fun of dressing up as somebody else with a sound legal basis.

In the decision "Pippi-Langstrumpf-Kostüm" (I ZR 52/12) the legal successors of the copyright of late Astrid Lindgren had sued a supermarket advertising for Pippi-Longstocking carnival costumes for damages.

The BGH rejected the action by confirming the earlier case-law that individual characters of literary works may well be the subject of isolated copyrights. However, "this presupposes that the author of this figure provides it with a distinctive personality by the combination of salient personality traits and distinguishing exterior features. Here, a rigorous test must be applied. Just the description of the external shape of a figure or acting their appearance will not be enough for it in most cases."

The mere reference to literary figures in other works it is not sufficient to infringe copyright, as the Ist senate says:
Especially for works that are very well known, is usually sufficient to provide only slight hints, especially in relation to external features, to make a clear reference to the earlier work. It then has to be examined in each case, whether such a reference already implies the takeover of the personal characteristics.... In the present case the complete image of the literary figure of Pippi Longstocking as relevant for copyright is obtained only by means of a mental link the viewer establishes with the dominant traits of character, as embodied in the superior-known literary work, this complete image is, however, not visible in the pictures of the advertisment.

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