Artist says Brazilians stole his duck

A giant rubber duck used to protest against the Brazilian government in Brasilia - March 2016Image copyright
Ayrton Vignola/Fiesp

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The protesters’ duck was initially commissioned to highlight corruption and high taxes

An artist famous for a giant rubber duck that pops up around the world says a version of his work used by Brazilian protesters amounts to plagiarism.

Groups pushing for the impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff are using a large rubber duck as a mascot.

But the design is similar to one by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, who told the BBC the Brazilian replica constitutes copyright infringement.

The owner of the factory that produced both ducks denied any wrongdoing.

Versions of the same giant inflatable rubber duck designed by Mr Hofman have travelled the world since 2007, calling in Japan, New Zealand and Brazil, among many other countries.

The version that has appeared in protests in Brazil closely resembles Mr Hofman’s, although it has crosses for eyes.

It also has the slogan “Chega de pagar o pato” across its chest, a Portuguese expression meaning “We won’t pay for the duck any more” or “We won’t pay for what is not our fault any more”.

‘Exactly our design’

The giant duck was commissioned by a powerful Brazilian industrial group, FIESP, to use in protests against corruption and high taxes from last September.

But it has made a number of appearances in demonstrations against the president in recent months.

“It is exactly our design and our specific technical patterns,” Mr Hofman told BBC Brasil. “Changing the eyes doesn’t change our technical design of the shape and beak.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

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Mr Hofman’s duck has made appearances in Taiwan…

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Getty Images

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…as well as Hong Kong…

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Florentijn Hofman

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…and Brazil

Before it appeared as part of an exhibition in Brazil, a version of Mr Hofman’s duck was produced in a Sao Paulo factory.

The owner of the factory, Denilson Sousa, told the BBC they also produced the new duck, but said the design was not copied.

“I would not put our reputation at risk,” he said. “We have experience in this kind of job and this is a very simple design. Why wouldn’t we spend four hours redesigning it?”

But Mr Hofman said the factory “made a very unwise decision” and that he considered it “illegal use of the exact design and therefore copyright infringement”.

A FIESP spokesman said they had been reassured the design was original.

On Tuesday, the group released 5,000 rubber ducks near the main national congress building in the capital, Brasilia, and took out full-page adverts in national newspapers using an image of a duck.

Opposition lawmakers want to remove Ms Rousseff over claims she manipulated government accounts to hide a growing deficit.

Her party’s coalition partners quit government on Tuesday, a step which may ensure she lacks enough support to stave off impeachment.

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