Artprice: Christie’s Makes Another Vain Attempt to Take Control of Artprice at a Lower Price…
Artprice, represented by its founder
its 18,000 shareholders and the markets that Christie’s Manson and Woods Ltd,
Christie’s France SAS and Christie’s France SNC have launched a civil claim
concerning our use of their sales catalogues and corporate identities (which
they consider a “brand”) and what they call acts of “parasitism” in using the
announcements and results of their public sales.
Despite the complete absence of any serious claim from the point of view
of intellectual property rights, Christie’s has decided – 48 hours before the
closure of the trial court’s (first instance) pre-hearing preliminary
case which has not been subject to a court-ordered appraisal – to raise its
or serious increase in motive.
It should be pointed out that Christie’s has a previous history of this
type of action. In its new demand, Christie’s has taken care not to reveal to
the court that already in 2001 it launched a similar claim against Artprice
concerning its catalogues (Christie’s/ SG Archibald vs Artprice /Cabinet
Alain Jakubowicz) which ended with Christie’s dropping the claim without any
concession from Artprice, whose readiness to defend its copyrights in
and the world has already been amply demonstrated.
At the time, Artprice’s principal financial partner was the group headed
coincidence, just a couple of weeks ahead of the adoption of EU Services
Directive 2006/123/CE including the notion of “online auction operators”
Artprice therefore wishes to communicate a) the details of the completely
unfounded claims against it, and b) to inform the public that as a listed
company traded on a regulated market without interruption since 2000,
Artprice considers this manoeuvre a violation of
Financial Code. By contrast, Christie’s an opaque and unlisted company, has
all the freedom to act without the constraints of a supervisory authority.
This information should therefore be considered as a supplement to the
chapter “current litigation” (which already mentions this case) published by
Artprice each year in its annual report and its regulated half-yearly report.
With respect to point (b) above, Artprice is justified in making a
counter-claim for damages equal (at the very least) to the unfounded claim
launched by Christie’s. Artprice’s defence is being organised by one of the
best literary and artistic property rights specialists in
The auction sales catalogues are not considered as creative works
qualifying for copyright protection for the following reasons (amongst
Containing highly summarized and simplified information, the auction
sales catalogues are documents destined to provide the public with
information that the auctioneers have no liberty with (decree ndegrees 81-255
stated quite clearly by the Voluntary Sales Advisory in its practical guide
for professionals (Guide Pratique, II, C).
As it happens, Christie’s is perfectly aware that its catalogues cannot
qualify for copyright since, like all the other auction companies, it
deliberately elects to apply the normal VAT rate to the sale of its
catalogues instead of the 5.5% rate which is applied to creative works (Art.
278 bis, 6degrees of the French General Tax Code).
In effect, since the French Tax Code gives catalogue publishers the right
to opt for the reduced VAT rate in copyright situations or the normal VAT
rate where no copyright is applicable, Christie’s has knowingly opted for the
normal rate and has therefore recognised, despite the extra cost to its
clients, that its catalogues are not “creative works”.
This choice is moreover in line with the French government’s taxation
doctrine which expressly excludes from qualification for the low VAT rate
catalogues with no creative content, whose essential purpose is the sale of
the products presented and, among such catalogues, it specifically mentions
sales catalogues for public auctions (bulletin officiel des impots ndegrees
Christie’s has the nerve to claim Artprice is guilty of “parasitism”,
causing losses in their business of catalogues when , as officially recorded
by Artprice’s bailiffs, Christie’s gives free access to its online sales
catalogues, notably in PDF format, without further requirement nor prior
Moreover, Artprice has detected that these very same catalogues contain
information from Artprice’s proprietary data sources and econometrics such as
indexes, prices and analyses, and has taken measures to have these facts
officially recorded. In accordance with its declarations to the independent
French National Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties
(CNIL), Artprice possesses logs of the connections by all its clients such as
Auctioneers, Valuers and experts, Art Institutions, Collectors, etc.
Unlike the auction houses, which just offer visitors to their websites
the possibility to download their catalogues, Artprice dissects these
catalogues in order to analyse the data within a specific industrial process
and then restructures the analysed data into several variable fields
constituting Artprice’s original databases which are protected by sui generis
copyright protection laws.
The sui generis law (L341-1 et seq. Intellectual Property Code.) was
investments in databases (financial, material and/or human) that such an
enterprise implies. The protection is granted to the producer of the
database. It protects against the unauthorised retrieval and re-utilisation
of all or a substantial part of the database. Violation of the sui generis
law is punishable in the same terms as the crime of forgery. Artprice has
regularly taken legal action against non-contractual usage of its databases
and intends to exercise its rights in the framework of the case brought by
Artprice then makes these enriched databases available online accompanied
by commentaries by its own experts and historians which are protected by the
In fact, all the industrial processes involved in “Artprice Catalogs
Library (R)” are patented and protected by the Agency for the Protection of
Programmes (A.P.P). These industrial processes analyse each broken-down page
of a sales catalogue that has been reviewed by an Artprice writer. In
addition, each of the text fields of the sales catalogue is linked by
referential integrities to the different databases which standardise the art
market (artist ID, works ID, catalogue raisonne ID, bibliography ID,
estimates / econometrics ID etc.).
This entire unique process is perfectly described in the video entitled
Alchemy and the Future of Artprice at http://web.artprice.com/video/
We might add that since the end of 2007 Artprice has opened a new service
relying on its databases: Artprice Images(R). This service offers access by
lot and by artist to a database of international public sales catalogues from
1700 to the present day for which Artprice pays royalties to the ADAGP
(French society for collective management in the visual arts) representing 43
copyright societies in different countries.
Artprice is one of the ADAGP’s best clients in terms of the payment of
copyright fees. The international press sees this agreement as a veritable
success reconciling respect of copyright law with the globalisation of art
market information, ensuring a fair remuneration of the authors, or their
beneficiaries, who are members of the ADAGP.
This innovative legal approach proves that Artprice has always made every
effort to comply with copyright laws. Indeed Artprice’s approach is regularly
cited as exemplary by different government Ministers and it is perfectly in
line with the Minister for Culture Frederic Mitterand’s ambition to foster
proper enforcement of copyright laws in the internet era.
The real difference compared with Christie’s is that Artprice is the
global leader of art market information, owns hundreds of copyright
protections under the sui generis law on databases, and continually applies
for copyright protection for its commentaries and newsflashes that are
distributed to 6,300 media organisations around the world.
Another particularly surprising aspect of this case is as follows: 3,600
auction houses around the world have been working in complete confidence with
Artprice for 23 years and consider rely on Artprice as a vector of market
acceleration and as contributing to the credibility of their promotions for
public auctions, implemented by artists watch alerts to 1.3 million Artprice
subscribers (member log in). Artprice therefore wonders what motives are
pushing Christie’s, which has not suffered any prejudice, to try to swim
against the very clear direction that history is taking?
have been irrevocably undermined by numerous books and reports in the French
and international press. The heavy and lengthy litigation history associated
that owns Christie’s allows a very clear interpretation of the motives behind
this latest attack on Artprice.
translation into French law of the EU Directive 2006/123/CE on Services,
including the notion of online operators of electronic auctions, is perfectly
in accordance with the different governmental projects and commissions to
which Artprice has already given its support and its data.
sales in order to “foster greater competition, notably to the art market”
according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse). During the debate, the Senate
made frequent reference to Artprice and the different reports that our group
has contributed to the parliamentary work on the reform.
Lastly, the adoption by the 27 Member States of the European Union of the
strengthens Artprice’s legal and judicial position as well as its economic
capacity to defend itself against the sort of ultra-minority protectionist
reflexes that Christie’s has embarked upon.
Artprice’s standardised and IP protected market place has therefore
allowed our company to test and implement its online model since 2004 and to
be ready to switch to online auctions, mainly as an operator, for the 3,600
In addition, the auction houses of 72 countries, in the framework of
specific agreements, send Artprice more than 68% of their catalogues and data
on our Secure Intranet (up 18% in just 6 months). This reflects, better than
any other demonstration, the trust and confidence that characterises
Artprice’s relations with the Auction Houses. Likewise, thanks to Artprice’s
database on valuers (a large number of whom organise auctions themselves)
there are no less than 7,400 key art market players that Artprice is
gradually connecting to its standardised marketplace.
As a result of the global economic and financial crisis, nearly all the
auction companies around the world are moving closer to Artprice (which has
been working in close collaboration with them since 1987) in order to
organise their auctions online as soon as the Directive is adopted, thanks to
Artprice’s standardised marketplace and its 1.3 million members. Artprice
owns the largest “Fine Art” client portfolio in the world. For the art
market, these client behaviour databases constitute the basis for the success
of catalogued auction sales.
Christie’s and its owners
that the Services Directive will allow the 3,600 auction houses and 7,400
valuers around the world to access Artprice’s 1.3 million clients through its
standardised marketplace protected by sui generis law at an infinitely
smaller cost than the current premium rates (36% to 37.5% – source: CVV). The
old lady from the Victorian era should wake up to the internet revolution
rather than seeking to engage in bogus conflicts.
according to his famous and explosive interview in: “The Book of Vanities” p.
Vanities, on “their religion of art” rather than through their lawyers.
Source: http://www.artprice.com (c)1987-2010 thierry Ehrmann
Artprice is the world leader in art market information with over 25
million auction prices and indices covering over 405,000 artists. Artprice
Images(R) offers unlimited access to the largest database of art market
information in the world, a library of 108,000,000 images and engravings of
art works from 1700 to the present day. Artprice continuously updates its
databases with information from 3,600 international auction houses and
provides daily information on art market trends to the main financial press
agencies and to 6,300 press titles worldwide. Artprice offers standardised
adverts to its 1,300,000 members (member log in) and is the world’s leading
market place for buying and selling works of art (source: Artprice).
Artprice is listed on Eurolist by Euronext Paris: Euroclear: 7478 -
Bloomberg: PRC – Reuters: ARTF