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Court rules painter Lê Linh owns rights to comic characters

Update: February, 19/2019 - 17:35
The cover of episode 25 of Thần Đồng Đất Việt, painted by Lê Linh. File Photo
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI The District 1 Court in HCM City has ruled that painter Lê Phong Linh (pen name Lê Linh) is to be the only author of popular comic series Thần Đồng Đất Việt (Vietnamese Land’s Prodigy).

The series features the history, culture and traditions of Việt Nam in the context of the Late Lê (1442-1789) reign with various surreal details. The series has proved attractive to both children and adults.

Linh sued Phan Thị Mỹ Hạnh, director of Phan Thị Company, for violating his copyright.

Between 2001 and 2006, Linh and Phan Thị Company co-operated to publish 78 episodes of Thần Đồng Đất Việt.

Then, the company exploited the characters in the series to create other series.

The characters have been featured in other 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 VNĐ3 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.

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.

Up to now, Thần Đồng Đất Việt has still been published by the company. According to statistics by the publishing authority, the series reached its 227th episode early this year.

The court said Linh was the person who had directly created the whole or a part of the series. In order to be recognised, the author should sign his name under the work.

The court recognised Linh’s copyright on four characters in the series: Trạng Tí, Sửu Ẹo, Dần Béo and Cả Mẹo. It also said Phan Thị Company director Hạnh was not a co-author of the series.

The court agreed with Linh’s request to force Phan Thị Company to stop using the four characters in other publications.

According to the trial council, the company has the right to possess the four characters but has no right to transform them without Linh’s approval.

The court requested Phan Thị Company to apologise to Linh in Thanh Niên (Young People) and Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspapers in three successive issues.

The company will also be charged the VNĐ15 million ($644) that Linh paid his lawyers.

The company said it would appeal the verdict.

In 2017, producer Ngô Thanh Vân announced that she would buy the copyright to make a film based on the series. VNS

Thần Đồng Đất Việt features the history, culture and tradition of Việt Nam. The series is read by both children and adults. File Photo

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