LUXEMBOURG — Zhang Jingna, a Chinese-born Singaporean photographer who is now based in the United States, recently lost her lawsuit over the copyright of her photograph in a Luxembourg district court, where Judges ruled Zhang’s request admissible but unfounded.
According to Luxembourg media Delano, the judges found that Zhang’s photograph did not meet the criteria to fall under Luxembourgish or European copyright law, claiming “there was insufficient originality in the photo.”
Vincent Wellens, Zhang’s lawyer, told the media that the result seems “absurd” and “incomprehensible”, “given that in the past, copyright was recognised for advertisements for a hairdresser.”
Wellens confirmed that they are planning to appeal against the ruling.
Zhang Accused Luxembourg Painter Of Plagiarism
On 3 June, Zhang accused Jeff Dieschburg, a painter in Luxembourg, of plagiarising her photo in the production of a painting “Turandot”, which won a €1,500 prize in a biennale supported by the Luxembourg government. It was also displayed at a selling price of €6,000.
His artwork(below left) is strongly resembled Zhang’s photograph, with just a flipped image, change in tones of colours, and added earrings and a sword from Zhang’s original photo.
Zhang hired Wellens, a Luxembourg-based lawyer, in July to file a lawsuit under Copyright Act against Jeff, demanding that the prize money be returned and that the work no longer be sold.
Jeff had earlier denied the allegation, claiming as a figurative painter, he needs “reference materials” and that he was inspired by Zhang’s photograph.
In a recent post on Instagram, Jingna Zhang expressed her disappointment that she was “devastated” by the copyright ruling.
“Completely unbelievable news today, to hear the court rule that my work does not deserve copyright protection from a plagiarist because my work doesn’t contain “any element that would allow [it] to be considered an original work”. Seriously???”
She stressed that her photo was “ripped off”, awarded, and offered for sale without any credit or license whatsoever.
“Set A Precedent That Can Affect All Portrait Photographers And Artists”
“Despite recognizing me as the copyright holder, I don’t deserve copyright protection because the model’s pose is common, and so my work can’t receive copyright protection?”
Zhang worries that this will set a precedent that can affect all portrait photographers and artists, “All our stuff can now be stolen and sold for profit without any repercussions by criminals whether you’re from Luxembourg or abroad.”
Zhang said she will appeal against the ruling, “but honestly I have no idea how I’m supposed to ask the court to honor protecting the creator and copyright holder of an artwork when they straight up just said no. Devastated.”