Copyright protection for public artworks in a digitalised world

– By Carla Zachariasson and Anna Li –

The growing digital landscape indeed imposes new questions and challenges for legislators and courts when adopting and adapting intellectual property law. For example, when artworks located in public outdoor spaces are published online (without the right holder’s consent), a reasonable balance between intellectual property protection and other interests, such as the free use of the internet, should be ensured. In 2016 and 2017, the Swedish courts delivered two judgments regarding the scope of protection for copyright-protected public artworks published online in the form of photographs. The purpose of this article is to discuss these judgments in light of the fact that on the one hand, the copyright holder has the exclusive right to communicate the work to the public, and on the other hand, that people may use the internet to spread information freely.