After 40 years, photographer of national hero wins copyright

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 June, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 June, 2003, 12:00am

State media have been using images of Lei Feng without paying royalties

The photographer who brought the ubiquitous smile of Communist Party legend Lei Feng to thousands of posters, textbooks and newspapers during the past 40 years has finally won copyright for his works.

Zhang Jun, 77, who took more than 200 photographs of Lei when the two were soldiers in the 1960s, was granted the right to profit from the black and white photos by the Liaoning provincial government, Xinhua said yesterday.

Born in 1940, Lei joined the PLA at the age of 20. He was killed two years later when a truck knocked a pole on to him. He was known for his fervent compassion and his tireless work for the poor and needy.

After his death he was touted as a model communist by Mao Zedong, sparking the 'Learn from Lei Feng' movement in 1963. He became a symbol of patriotism and self-sacrifice for Chinese youth.

For four decades Mr Zhang has allowed state media to use his pictures without paying royalties or obtaining his permission.

But with more publications and websites continuing to use his pictures without acknowledgement, Mr Zhang thought it was time to seek protection for his works.

'At the beginning, I didn't mind people using my photos because I thought the photos were common treasures for the whole of humanity,' he told Xinhua.

He promised the royalties earned from the photographs would be used to publicise the 'Lei Feng spirit' and to fund voluntary activities. 'So to apply for copyright protection for the photos is conforming to the Lei Feng spirit, which calls for devotion and self-sacrifice for those in need.'

Mr Zhang said he finds it difficult to enforce his rights to the photos. Despite crackdowns, copyright and other intellectual property protection is widely ignored on the mainland.

Yesterday, the hundreds of photographs of Feng shown on his official website still bore no acknowledgement of Mr Zhang as the photographer.