Artprice, the French art information service, released a long and convoluted press release today with a headline–“Artprice: Christie’s Makes Another Vain Attempt to Take Control of Artprice at a Lower Price…”–that implies Christie’s is trying to takeover the firm but content that accuses Christie’s of . . . , well, we’re not entirely clear what the charge against Christie’s is:
With complete transparency, Artprice, represented by its founder Thierry Ehrmann, hereby wishes to inform its 18,000 shareholders and the markets that Christie’s Manson and Woods Ltd, Christie’s France SAS and Christie’s France SNC have launched a civil claim concerning our use of their sales catalogues and corporate identities (which they consider a “brand”) and what they call acts of “parasitism” in using the announcements and results of their public sales.
What follows is a lengthy disquisition on Artprice’s use of Christie’s catalogue material and their claim that their own work is protected under a sui generis copyright:
Unlike the auction houses, which just offer visitors to their websites the possibility to download their catalogues, Artprice dissects these catalogues in order to analyse the data within a specific industrial process and then restructures the analysed data into several variable fields constituting Artprice’s original databases which are protected by sui generis copyright protection laws.
From the launch of their website service, Artprice reproduced in their entirety more than 2300 of Christie’s catalogues on its website without permission. Due to the seriousness of this copyright and trademark infringement, in 2008, Christie’s commenced legal action against Artprice in France, where it is based. Christie’s has not been alone in bringing proceedings against Artprice in the French courts. The French courts have already concluded that Artprice improperly used Christie’s trademarks, and Christie’s is confident of a further favourable decision from the French courts with respect to Christie’s copyrights.