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Astrid Lindgren heirs lose in copyright spat

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Astrid Lindgren heirs lose in copyright spat
Photo: Ulla Monta; Tina Buckman/Swedish Institute/Image Bank Sweden (file)
14:58 CET+01:00
The Stockholm district court ruled on Friday against the heirs of beloved Swedish children's author Astrid Lindgren in a copyright dispute with a company owned by Swedish publisher Bonnier.

The court ruled against granting Saltkråkan, the company owned by the author's children and grandchildren that manages the rights to her works, compensation for royalties from Bonnier-owned film company SF.

However, it has won partial rights regarding its infringement proceedings against Bonnier Amigo Music Group, later Cosmos Music Group, SF's distributor for music products.

The dispute dates back to 2006, when Saltkråkan took SF to court regarding its release of a double CD called "Christmas in Astrid's World." The work includes sound clips from films about Pippi Longstocking, Emil of Lönneberga and other well known Lindgren characters.

However, the CD also contains music and lyrics that have no connection to Lindgren, and the writer, who died in 2002, never approved the product, according to her grandson Nils Nyman, who is also the CEO of Saltkråkan.

Saltkråkan alleged that SF distorted the works and also swindled it out of millions of kronor.

The dispute also involved royalty payments for more than 20 other CDs. Saltkråkan sought several million kronor from SF, which has reported annual turnover of over 800 million kronor ($120.47 million).

Saltkråkan had demanded 311,350 kronor in compensation from SF for the erroneous payments of royalties and claimed breach of contract, which SF denied. The district court pointed out that the parties came to an agreement after long negotiations and as such, Saltkråkan had the opportunity to assess the conditions.

In another claim against SF, Saltkråkan asked for royalty payments for certain audio recordings released from 1998 to 2006 to be determined.

The district court ruled that Bonnier Amigo breached a copyright infringement ban by releasing nine musical compositions in a CD box set based on Lindgren's literary works. Furthermore, the Bonnier Amigo infringed on trademarks by putting a Pippi Longstocking figure on the box.

The district court ruled that the remaining copies of "Christmas in Astrid's World" that belong to Cosmos be destroyed. The district court also prohibits Cosmos from issuing any compilations if they include recordings based on Lindgren's works. If Cosmos breaches these terms, it risks fines of 500,000 kronor.

Saltkråkan had sought 25 percent of sales value in compensation for the copyright infringement. The district court settled on 10 percent or 237,779 kronor. The compensation for trademark infringement was 104,450 kronor.

A third claim dealt with determining remuneration of certain audio recordings as of June 2006. The district court ruled that SF's releases of the recordings were unlawful, but it was not the result of negligence and Saltkråkan's claim was dropped.

This is essentially a success for us. The main issue was copyright and that we won there," Nyman told news agency TT on Friday.

He would have preferred that Saltkråkan won with regards to the royalties, but can live with the defeat.

"It plays a small role in the big question of what extent SF can cut and paste in the works that Astrid Lindgren once created and here the court has been very clear that it was an unlawful publication," he said.

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