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Copyright lawsuit: Creator ownership in “Infant Progidies of Viet country" comics.

21/02/2019
On February 18, 2019, the People's Court of District 1, Ho Chi Minh City returned a first-instance verdict to recognize painter Le Linh as the only author of the "Infant Progidies of Viet country" comics. This copyright ownership dispute has lasted for 12 years, attracted public interest, especially the publishing community.

In the morning of February 18, 2019, the People's Court of District 1, Ho Chi Minh City returned a first-instance verdict to recognize painter Le Linh as the only author of the "Infant Progidies of Viet country" comics. The lawsuit’s main issue is a copyright ownership disputes, which has lasted for 12 years, attracted public interest, especially the publishing community.

The first instance trial panel is composed of Judge Nguyen Quang Huynh and two people's jurors Dinh Thi Ngoc Chau and Tran Van Man. Representatives of District 1 People's Procuracy were Ms. Tran Le Thuy. The plaintiffs side consisted of painter Le Linh and lawyer Mrs.Truong Thi Thu Hong (from Pham & Associate law office). The defendant side consisted of  is Mrs. Phan Thi My Hanh, Phan Thi Company, and lawyer Nguyen Van Nam (from Nam Hung Law Consulting Company).

Protecting her client at the first-instance trial, the plaintiff’s lawyer affirmed that painter Le Linh directly created 4 figures of characters in the "Infant Progidies of Viet country", namely “Trạng tí, Sửu ẹo, Dần béo và Cả mẹo” ( “Great Ti, Twisty Dan, Fatty Dan and Big Tricker) from sketching to finishing stages to  register copyright; from there to make other variations in the series of comic book. The evidence is that the original sketches, on the cover of the volumes from 1 to 78, had recognized the work of the painter. Especially in volume 37, Le Linh was also introduced as the author who composed the comic book.

Meanwhile, the defendant said that the plaintiff did not directly create the work, Ms. Hanh herself is the one who  told the dialogues of the characters in each story, how to segment and deliberate to suit characters in each drawing. Mr. Linh's main job is to arrange the characters' dialogues into the appropriate position in the frame at each page of the book. The Court held that the defendant's argument was unfounded. Before registering the copyright, from book 1 to book 6 of the "Infant Progidies of Viet country", it was printed on books that the author of the story and painting is Le Linh. In the process of publishing the series, Phan Thi Company determined Le Linh participated in 6 steps in the process of publishing this series and is the author of the series;, there is  no content showing that  Mr. Le Linh and Ms. Hanh are co-authors. Mr. Linh's name was written on the cover of the book as an author, in published volumes from 1 to 78, and Mr. Linh was paid the full royalties by Phan Thi Company according to regulations.

Article 8 of Decree 100/2006/ND-CP dated September 21, 2006, was amended and supplemented by Decree 85/2011/ND-CP dated September 20, 2011 detailing and guiding the Intellectual Property Law (now replaced by Decree 22/2018/ND-CP dated February 23, 2008) stipulates that  “authors means persons who personally create part of or the entire literary, artistic or scientific works” and “ organizations and individuals that render supports, give comments or supply documents to others to create works shall not be recognized as authors”.

From the above consideration, the Trial Panel declared Le Linh to be the only author of the four figures in the "Infant Progidies of Viet country", and did not recognize Mrs. My Hanh as co-author; forced Phan Thi company to terminate the activities using 4 figures of these characters on different variations; to force Phan Thi company to apologize to Mr. Le Linh in three consecutive editions of Thankh Nien and Tuoi Tre newspapers: Thanh Nien and Tuoi Tre, and order Phan Thi Company to pay VND15 million for the lawyer fee of Mr.Le Linh./.

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