Rights to Munch’s art up for grabs

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Next year marks 70 years since the death of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. After zealously protecting the rights to his artwork over the years, both his heirs and the City of Oslo stand to lose their exclusive claims and a liquor producer has already stepped in.

Edvard Munch's "Skriket" (The Scream) is by far his most famous image. Soon a local liquor producer will be able to sell "Scream Vodka." PHOTO: Munch Museum

Edvard Munch’s “Skriket” (The Scream) is by far his most famous image. Soon a local liquor producer will be able to sell “Scream Vodka.” PHOTO: Munch Museum

“In 2012 we checked who had the rights to The Scream in connection to this type of product (liquor),” Sven Hauge, owner of liquor producer Rosmersholm, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “We found out that no application had been sent in from Oslo, so we wanted to secure our rights.” His firm has since received a patent and plans to sell “Scream Vodka” featuring the well-known image on the bottles.

Munch’s surviving relatives and the City of Oslo, which inherited the artist’s huge personal collection of his own art, have held the rights to everything that has to do with Edvard Munch. They can be challenged next year when their exclusive rights expire on the 70th anniversary of the artist’s death on January 23, 1944. Then anyone can apply to secure the rights to both Munch’s name and pictures. That has set off a rights-race of sorts, according to NRK.

The state broadcaster reported that the City of Oslo has itself tried to secure the exclusive rights to Munch as a brand on several products and has sent in 13 brand applications to the patent board. Most seem aimed at protecting products already for sale in the store at the Munch Museum in Oslo, or in use for buildings, rooms and restaurants.

“There’s been a fear of unwarranted use of Munch’s motifs and that others would register products that could prevent us from selling products or using the name,” Henrik Svalheim, director of administration and economy at the museum, told NRK.

The city ended up in negoations with Rosmersholm, with the city giving up rights to use Munch’s name or motifs in any wine or liquor production, and Rosmersholm giving up a right it secured to operate restaurants with the Munch name.

The city is still waiting for a decision on nine other brand applications due this autumn.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund