Gorilla painted to look like Freddie Mercury removed from Norwich following copyright claim

Local artist derides 'petty' move by Queen frontman's charity Mercury Phoenix Trust

A sculpture of a gorilla painted to look like Freddie Mercury has been removed from Norwich city centre because it infringes copyright.

The sculpture, which is decorated with Mercury’s trademark moustache and yellow leather jacket, was on display on outside The Forum in Norwich until a complaint by the Mercury Phoenix Trust was made to organisers Wild In Art. The organisers of the local conservation art trail were contacted by the Aids charity, which was set up following the Queen frontman’s death in 1991, as they believed the similarity was so close it broke copyright law.

Artist Mik Richardson, who paid £800 to decorate the sculpture, described the situation as, “absolutely shocking”. “It’s dreadful. It’s petty, really. The night I was told I couldn’t sleep. I’m a mural artist and I have to be very careful about copyright,” he told BBC News. “I didn’t copy the suit exactly. I alter enough so that it’s fan art, rather than a copy of it.”

Confirming that the gorilla will be redesigned immediately, Wild In Art director Charlie Langhorne said: “They just said that they own the copyright on the suit and asked us to change it. That’s being sorted. To save any bother we will change it. We do quite a few bits and pieces for them but it’s no great shakes. We would rather not have to do it but it’s not the end of the world.”

The gorilla is one of 53 life-size gorillas and 67 baby gorillas decorated by local artists and schoolchildren before going on display on the streets on Norwich. All money made through the venture will be going to charity. A request for comment from the Mercury Phoenix Trust has not been returned.