The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen: Second Danish mermaid statue makes waves in copyright row

A small harbour town in northern Denmark has found itself at the centre of a copyright battle after it was ordered to destroy a statue of a mermaid accused of being too similar to Copenhagen's famous Little Mermaid sculpture.

The rival mermaid was placed in the harbour of Asaa on the north-east coast of the Jutland peninsula four years ago and shows a mermaid on a rock looking like it has just swum in from the sea.

But the heirs of Edvard Eriksen, the Danish-Icelandic artist who created the Copenhagen version back in 1913, this month sent a threatening letter to the local mayor demanding that the artwork be removed and destroyed.

"I must admit that I could not help but laugh a little when I received the inquiry. A cow is a cow, and a mermaid is a mermaid," Mikael Klitgaard, the mayor of Bronderslev municipality, told the Danish broadcaster TV2.

"One cannot patent an entire species, and, by the way, I do not think the two mermaids are similar. Ours is plumper and has a completely different face."

Palle Mork, the artist who made the new mermaid, rejected any claim that he had modelled his work on the Copenhagen statue or that the two sculptures were striking the same pose.

"Well, how the hell should a mermaid sit on a rock? She doesn't have legs, but fins. You cannot have a patent on mermaids," he told the broadcaster.

"It doesn't look the same at all," he added. "My mermaid is made of granite and not bronze, and it is more than twice as big as the one in Copenhagen."

Eriksen's heirs are famously rigorous in the enforcement of their copyright, despite the fact that the character the Little Mermaid was conceived by writer Hans Christian Andersen nearly 80 years before the sculptor's version.

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The Danish newspapers Politiken and Berlingske have both been fined for using an image of the Little Mermaid sculpture without permission, and in 2009 the heirs demanded a licensing fee from the town of Greenville in Michigan, which had erected a mermaid statue to celebrate its Danish heritage.

However, so far the controversy has only benefited the harbour town, according to Thomas Nymann, chairman of the local council.

"The more life we can get at the port, the better. I do not know if I would use the word 'boom', but the other day there was a tourist bus from Korsor that wanted to see the mermaid," he told state broadcaster DR.

The Telegraph, London

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