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Magnus app founder hits back at critics

Move towards "greater and greater" transparency cannot be stopped, he says

Magnus Resch, the art market entrepreneur behind the Magnus price data app, has responded to claims that his service had stolen information from other databases and galleries. The free app, which combines aggregated public information with digital recognition technology, also includes prices, the holy grail of the primary market.

In July, the Magnus app was removed from the Apple Store on the back of copyright claims from three German galleries who asked for images—as well as the price data—to be removed.

Resch says that his competitors are threatened by the service that the app offers: other providers charge for price data while galleries “fear they may be harmed by pricing transparency”, he says.

Soon after the Magnus app launched in April, Artsy, an online art database that partners with galleries and institutions, complained about copyright infringement of certain images. Resch acknowledges that Artsy had a valid claim and says that he removed the relevant images from his app, which Graham Newhall, Artsy's communication manager, confirms. Newhall says that Artsy, whose investors include the mega art dealer Larry Gagosian, has made no subsequent complaints. Newhall says that “innovation and technology in the art market is potentially good for everybody, but our strong concern was to protect the copyright and privacy of our partner galleries, auction houses and institutions.”

Another online database, ArtFacts, headquartered in London but operating out of Berlin, complained to Apple about Magnus lifting its data, also soon after the app's launch. Resch says these claims have “no substance”. 

Marek Claassen, the director of ArtFacts, says that while he agrees that “transparency in the primary market is needed”, it would have been “normal business practice” for Resch to have licensed data from others in the industry.

Magnus launched with more than eight million gallery and auction prices, together with information about the artists and their exhibitions. Galleries' websites are the building blocks of the service and Resch uses an outside data collection business to gather information—around 80 people have been working on the app since 2013. Another one of Resch’s initiatives, Larry’s List, similarly trawls through a huge amount of publicly available information to present data on art collectors worldwide.

Much of the other information (photographs, primary market prices) on Magnus is user generated, which is providing a challenge to copyright laws in several industries. However, Resch says, “I don’t see any gallery asking Instagram to take down images.”

Resch adds: “This move towards greater and greater transparency… cannot be stopped. Whether we are challenged in the press, or threatened with lawsuits, we will fight it and win—the app will be up again soon.”