Controversial Swedish Copyright Case Raises Question About Originality

Copyright laws can sometimes be tricky because there are areas which are open to debate. All these grey areas came apparent in Sweden lately as a photographer and painter came to heads to heads about copyright disagreement.

The photographer, Jonas Lemberg, accused the painter, Markus Andersson, of abusing his copyright after the oil painter recreated his portrait of the famed Christer Pettersson with the brush adding only a goat to the background.

The case was originally won by the photographer, when the District Court decided it was a copyright abuse, and that the new work was not original enough to be an individual piece of work. However, after feeling frustrated with the outcome Andersson took things to the next level: The Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeals as well as The Supreme Court reviewed the case and decided against the original verdict, stating that the work was originally enough, and not abusing the photographers copyright. Staffan Teste, a former CEPIC board member and treasurer, was involved in the case working on the photographer’s side. He told CEPIC: “I had the case the whole way up to Supreme court. Usually the Supreme court take the cases from the paper but in this case, they have to see the painting and the photo so there was a verbal meeting in The Supreme Court. I have had 6 cases in the Supreme court but the first time I was there actually.”

The painter, Andersson, was happy with the outcome saying to Sveriges Radio: “I see it as a big victory for freedom of expression. If we do not have the ability to even refer to commonly used images in the public space, it would be almost impossible for social critics and community debate because we use image as our language.”

The case received widespread interest with a Swedish TV show being created on the topic by STV, where they asked the public their thoughts on copyright and originality.


This outcome of this case does raise questions about originality and copyright abuse. Despite the photographer feeling his rights were abused, it is encouraging to see that image copyright is been taken seriously.


Vector illustration credit: