The HCM City People’s Court has upheld a decision earlier this year that painter Le Phong Linh (pen name Le Linh) is to be the only author of four characters in popular comic series Thần Đồng Đất Việt (Vietnamese Land’s Prodigy).
|Painter Le Linh is happy at the court's announcement. Photo soha.vn|
The series features the history, culture and traditions of Việt Nam in the context of the Late Le’s (1442-1789) reign with various surreal details. It has proved popular with both children and adults.
The court has also forced sued Phan Thị Company to stop creating other versions of the four characters that painter Linh has created. The four characters are Trạng Tí, Sửu Ẹo, Dần Béo and Cả Mẹo.
The company is also forced to publically apology to painter Linh on Thanh Niên (Young People) and Tuổi Trẻ (The Youth) newspapers in three successive publications.
The company is also responsible for paying the painter’s legal fees.
During the trial, the two sides admitted that painter Linh is the one who directly created the four characters. His name was published in all illustrations published in the series.
According to the court, Linh was the one who expressed his work in certain forms while Phan Thị Company has no evidence to prove that Linh drew under the company’s direction.
The court decided Linh is the author of the original characters; Phan Thi Company as the owner of the works, is allowed to use four characters in their business activities but the company must respect the copyright of the painter.
According to the court, all transformings of the original characters without the painter’s permission are violating the painter’s copyright.
As Việt Nam News published previously, between 2001 and 2006, Linh and Phan Thị Company co-operated to print 78 episodes of Thần Đồng Đất Việt.
Then, the company exploited the characters to create other series.
The characters have been featured in series like Thần Đồng Đất Việt Toán Học featuring the characters in mathematic games (67 episodes so far); Thần Đồng Đất Việt Khoa Học featuring various simple scientific phenomena (157 episodes); Thần Đồng Đất Việt Mỹ Thuật for children who love fine arts; and Thần Đồng Đất Việt Hoàng Sa - Trường Sa aiming to educate children about the Vietnamese sea and island sovereignty.
The company signed an agreement with Linh that saw him receive payment of more than VND3 billion (US$129,000) between May 2002 and February 2006 for his work on the series. The agreement did not give the company permission to use the characters Linh had created in other series.
|Four characters created by Le Linh. Photo zing.vn|
For 78 episodes of Thần Đồng Đất Việt, Phan Thị Company recognised Linh’s work by listing him as the creator of the stories and paintings. On the last page of episode 37, Linh’s biography was also printed.
But after those episodes, the painter stopped co-operating and decided to bring a suit against the company for violating his copyright.
According to statistics by the publishing authority, the series reached its 227th episode early this year.