Court: Peking Opera logo violated artist's copyright

Updated: 2012-07-25 08:07

By Zhang Zhao (China Daily)

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 Court: Peking Opera logo violated artist's copyright

A Peking Opera mask show on the street in Liaocheng, Shandong province. A court ruled that the design company's logo violated the rights of the original artist, who added his own original style to the traditional art form. Zhang Zhenxiang / China Daily

A design company in Xiamen, Fujian province, recently lost a trademark suit when the court ruled that it had used a design for Peking Opera facial makeup as a part of its logo without the authorization of the makeup's designer.

Zhao Menglin is a painter and the editor of Facial Makeup in the Peking Opera of China, an album depicting 568 types of facial makeup designs used in the Peking Opera along with more than 20 portraits of Peking Opera characters.

The artist recently found that the trademark of Xiamen Century Sunshine Enterprise was using some elements from his work.

The logo is a combination of a Peking Opera makeup design on the left and a Venetian-style mask on the right, which "symbolizes internationalized development and orientation", according to the company's official website.

The left half of the logo is the facial makeup of Yeon Gaesomun, a Korean military dictator in the seventh century who is also a character in a number of traditional Chinese operas and novels.

Except for some slight differences, the design is nearly identical to the 103rd entry in Zhao's album in terms of proportion, colors and curves, the court determined.

Zhao said that the company had never contacted him or asked for authorization before using his artwork in commercial activities, nor had they paid him any royalties, which constitutes infringement on his copyright.

He filed a lawsuit against Century Sunshine at the court of Xiamen's Siming district, seeking 200,000 yuan ($31,400) as compensation.

The focus of the dispute was whether or not Zhao holds the copyright on the makeup designs in the book.

The defendant claimed that Zhao, as the editor, has the copyright on the book, but the copyright on the artwork in the book "belongs to no one" because the facial makeup in the Peking Opera "is a form of folk art passed from one generation to another over nearly 1,000 years, and every character in the operas has fixed facial makeup, with unique colors and design".

It also contended that the logo was designed by its employees independently.

However, Zeng Zhengzhi, the judge in this case, ruled that although the facial makeup designs are part of the traditional art and every facial makeup has "a relatively fixed pattern", Zhao integrated his own innovations in terms of the use of lines and proportion when he drew them in the book.

Therefore, the court concluded that Zhao has the copyright on the design and ruled that Century Sunshine should stop using the trademark and pay him 30,000 yuan in compensation.

(China Daily 07/25/2012 page17)