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Danish court orders car dealer to compensate Chinese artist Ai Weiwei

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COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was awarded 1.75 million Danish crowns ($262,952) compensation by a Danish court on Wednesday after a Danish car dealer used one of his works commemorating thousands of refugees as a backdrop for a commercial.

Car dealer Skandinavisk Motor Co., an importer of Volkswagen VOWG_p.DE cars in Denmark, used Ai's art work in a magazine commercial published more than 200,000 times, the district court said.

The work called “Soleil Levant”, which translates to “Rising Sun”, displayed more than 3,500 life jackets collected from refugees and migrants who landed on the Greek island of Lesbos.

It highlighted the human side of a crisis that peaked in 2015 when more than one million people, mostly fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and beyond, traveled via Turkey, Greece and the Balkans towards wealthy western Europe.

“This market-related exploitation of Ai Weiwei’s artwork was clearly contrary to the considerations and thoughts which was behind the work and the detailed content of the work,” the Court of Glostrup said in its verdict.

Skandinavisk Motor Co. said it was surprised by the ruling.

“We have from the beginning of the case said we regret and acknowledged that this was a matter of a human error, and as soon as we discovered the copyright issue we have tried to find a solution with Ai Weiwei within Danish law,“ a spokesman told Reuters.

Ai, known for his politically charged works and criticism of China’s stifling of free expression, has been a vocal campaigner for refugees and migrants.

Reporting by Andreas Mortensen; Editing by Frances Kerry