The copyright of the Kelpies has been questioned over concerns the artist who designed them has too much control.
At a meeting this week Falkirk councillors demanded a report be compiled to scrutinise the legal position of the present agreement in a bid to explore ways of gaining more control over marketing rights.
‘The Kelpies were made for the people of Falkirk – they are not some private art collection’Councillor David Alexander
Councillors feel that as the Kelpies were paid for by a mixture of taxpayer and Lottery money, the authorities which run the attraction – Falkirk Council, Falkirk Community Trust and Scottish Canals – should have a bigger say on how they are operated and marketed.
Kelpies creator artist Andy Scott owns the intellectual property rights (IPR) to the now globally iconic structures and angered some councillors in May last year by refusing a request to tie a massive Falkirk FC scarf, knitted by local residents, around one of the sculptures to mark Falkirk FC’s appearance in the Scottish Cup Final.
The artist felt the scarf plan was “inappropriate” and says he was backed up on the decision not to mount it on the Kelpies by Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals. The Kelpies were instead lit up gold for the final and the scarf ended up on the Steeple in High Street.
Other concerns have been raised at the length of time it took to agree plans to produce miniature Kelpies which could be sold to tourists at the new visitor centre. However, it was revealed this week an agreement has now been reached between the parties and 3D Kelpies are in development for sale.
Falkirk North Councillor Craig R Martin wants the council to have more control over the Kelpies to create new revenue streams for the skint local authority and allow communities to take advantage of the iconic structures.
He said: “I am glad progress has recently been made and that Andy is working with us, but I do feel we should have more control over the Kelpies.
“They were paid for with public money to help the Falkirk area prosper and we want to maximise opportunities and encourage community groups to use the attraction in a way that respects Andy’s intellectual rights.”
Councillors David Alexander and Malcolm Nicol both questioned the original agreement asking why the public money did not ensure control over the attraction.
Mr Alexander said: “The fact that the issue is arising you have got to question the arrangements in place at the start when the funds were secured. The Kelpies are for the people and should belong to the people of Falkirk – they are not a private art collection.”
A spokesperson for Falkirk Council said: “Scottish Canals and the Council worked together on the Helix project and agreed a commissioning agreement with Andy Scott Public Art Ltd for the Kelpies.
“As is usual in such an agreement, the intellectual property rights, including copyright, remained with the creator of the Kelpies, Andy Scott Public Art Ltd, however, the company must work with the Council and Scottish Canals to use this for merchandising purposes.”
The spokesperson added that the merchandising deal currently in place is there to ensure goods are “of the highest standard and in keeping with the reputation and image of the Kelpies” and ends in November 2016 when it will be reviewed.”
Mr Scott said he and the local authorities aim to promote the Kelpies as world-class artworks to a local, national and an “increasingly global audience”.
He added: “We are taking considerable effort to ensure that those products are in keeping with the Kelpies’ kudos and stature as national icons and that where possible, products are sourced from local or Scottish companies. We are surprised to find out that somebody is complaining about this.
“As the artist who dreamt up the sculptures 10 years ago and the person who is arguably closer to them than anyone, I am immensely proud of what they have achieved for the town and surroundings and the honours and accolades they’ve received.
“I’m deeply honoured that the people of the Falkirk and Grangemouth area have taken them so much to heart.”
Scottish Canals did not respond for comment.