Artist Nadia Plesner has prevailed in a copyright infringement lawsuit leveled by luxury handbag manufacturer Louis Vuitton for her use of the company's iconic bag in her painting Darfurnica (detail at right). A court in The Hague handed down its ruling this morning, finding that "the importance of Plesner (freedom of expression through her work) outweighs the importance of Vuitton (protection of property)" (according to a Google translation of a Dutch news story).
Vuitton was seeking a penalty of 5,000 Euros per day for each day her large-scale painting -- inspired by Picasso's Guernica, but created to raise awareness of the plight of people in Darfur, Sudan, and western indifference to it -- remained on her website. The company began its tally on Jan. 28. It also sought to prevent her from exhibiting the work online or in the European Union.
Plesner made headlines in 2008 when Vuitton sued her for using the image of a Darfurian boy with an Audra handbag in t-shirts. Plesner has since started a foundation to raise funds to help people in Darfur, Tanzania, Uganda and elsewhere, and the attention of this most recent suit -- which has garnered headlines in newspapers and blogs worldwide (not to mention the eye of street artists) -- will surely help boost the profile of those efforts.
According to a Danish news report, Louis Vuitton -- which posted profits of $28.26 billion last year -- has been ordered by The Hague to pay Plesner's legal costs.
Plesner, who gave her defense at The Hague on April 21, wrote on her website when the suit was filed, "The story about Darfur must be told, and I believe I should have my artistic freedom of speech to do so." The Hague, sensibly, concurred.
Update: Nadia Plesner on Louis Vuitton case: "This is a great day for art."
(Thanks to the commenter who tipped me off about the decision.)