20 January 2020CopyrightSarah Morgan

Eden Project artist accuses botanic garden of copying exhibition

Bruce Munro, a UK-based artist specialising in large-scale light installations, took Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden to court earlier this month over alleged copyright infringement.

The Florida-based botanic garden has reportedly bought “knock-off replicas” of Munro’s sculptural works from China and is using them in its NightGarden exhibition, according to a lawsuit filed January 8 at the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Munro, whose exhibitions include “Field of Light” at the Eden Project exhibition in Cornwall, UK, named China-based seller G-Lights, the botanic garden and its chief operating officer, and two Los Angeles-based companies that produced the display as the defendants in his copyright infringement suit.

“By all appearances, defendants utilise phoney titles and self-attribution in an effort to conceal that they are exploiting copyrighted materials without the authorisation of Munro,” said the claim.

According to the suit, Fairchild’s website, exhibition pamphlet and signage “ascribe false titles to and self-credit each display”. The suit cites the example of the botanic garden’s “Mystic Mushrooms” display, which Munro said is a replica of three of his works.

The claim argued that Fairchild’s exhibition shares “substantial” similarities to Munro’s works, including his “Field of Light” exhibition, “Water Towers” at the Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire, UK, and his “Forest of Light” work displayed at Pennsylvania’s Longwood Gardens.

Munro’s lawyers compared his Longwood exhibition (which drew more than 300,000 attendees, “many from more than three hours away”) to the Rolling Stones 2014 concert tour.

“How popular was Munro’s Longwood exhibition? By comparison, the Rolling Stones’ 2014 concert tour, one of the top tours of 2014, drew 651,816 attendees. In just one exhibition at Longwood, Munro’s installations drew roughly half that many attendees,” said the suit.

G-Lights is reportedly selling infringing copies and derivatives of Munro’s works on Alibaba’s online retail platform, using images of Munro’s work and citing its goods as “Bruce Munro style” in its adverts.

Now, Munro is seeking $150,000 in statutory damages for the infringement of his “Forest of Light” work, in addition to an injunction and the destruction of all infringing goods.

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