'Moby dick' – Stockholm, Sweden - Atlas Obscura

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'Moby dick'

A statue that stood at the center of a long copyright battle. 


The Stockholm University campus has many pieces of public art scattered around its grounds. From modern art to detailed busts, most will find something they like if they look long enough. However, the most infamous of these works is a sculpture named “Moby dick,” but known colloquially as the “Duck.” 

The statue crafted by Johan Paalzow was one of three sculptures that were the center of a court case between Wikimedia and the Bildkonst Upphovsrätt i Sverige (BUS). The latter sued Wikimedia Sweden after they opened a website that showed a map of all of Sweden’s public art, alleging that artists have the right to receive compensation for pictures of their art. 

The main argument for the access to public art was given by the operations manager of Wikimedia Sweden Anna Trobert who said, “We also feel strongly that art that has been financed with taxpayers’ money should be accessible to taxpayers. We have all already paid for the art once, so it is strange to think that we should have to pay for it over and over again.”

This case raged on for several years until it ended up in the Swedish supreme court in 2016, where the court sided with BUS, declaring that Wikimedia did not have the right “to communicate photographs of works of art permanently placed outdoors from its database to the public via the internet. Whether the disposal has a commercial purpose is irrelevant.”

This decision has garnered a lot of criticism about the right to panorama and about how this would affect the internet. However, it was later clarified that this verdict was only for a specific website, and all other websites (including Wikipedia) still have photos of the artwork. 

The work itself was created in 2004 and has stood on the campus ever since. 

Know Before You Go

The statue is freely available.

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