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Saturday, April 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Renoir’s Grandson Sold Copyrighted Sculptures

(CN) - A federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld a $125,000 award against the grandson of French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir in a copyright infringement dispute over replica sculptures sold in France.

The 9th Circuit affirmed a ruling for the Societe Civile Succession Richard Guino for 10 of the 11 contested sculptures.

One of Renoir's assistants, Richard Guino, helped create 11 sculptures between 1913 and 1917. In 1973, the French Supreme Court awarded Guino half the interest in the sculptures as a co-creator. Nearly a decade later, the Renoirs agreed to let the Guino family retain exclusive rights to any copies of the 11 sculptures. The Guinos subsequently formed the trust and copyrighted the sculptures in the United States.

In 2003, Jean-Emmanuel Renoir, the artist's grandson, sold some of the molds to Beseder Inc., which sold them at its art gallery in Scottsdale, Ariz.

When the trust sued for copyright infringement, the defendants acknowledged that "if Societe had legitimate, existing copyright interests under American law in the sculptures, then some of Renoir's and the Beseder Defendants' actions would constitute infringing acts."

But the defendants argued that the sculptures never passed into the public domain in the United States.

The district court rejected this claim, because the replicas were not published with notice of U.S. copyright in 1917 or 1974. The court also held that 10 of the 11 sculptures were protected for 70 years after the death of the last surviving creator.

A jury later awarded the trust $125,000 in damages.

Judge Nelson affirmed the ruling and damage award. "Because Guino passed away in 1973," Nelson wrote, "the sculptures are entitled to protection until 2073, which the district court properly held."

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