Calligrapher sues US firm for copyright infringement

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 July, 2003, 12:00am

A calligraphy master has filed a lawsuit against Dow Jones for infringing his copyright by using calligraphy he wrote for its chairman, Peter Kann, as part of a commercial design for the company, a Beijing newspaper reported yesterday.

Guan Dongsheng, a calligraphy teacher at the Central University for Nationalities, was taking the company to court and the case would be heard in the Beijing Intermediate People's Court on Wednesday, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

The report said Mr Guan demanded 5 million yuan (HK$4.71 million) in compensation and that Dow Jones publish a public apology in the overseas edition of the People's Daily and on its website.

According to the newspaper, Mr Guan was approached by a staff member of Dow Jones' Beijing office in 1994 on behalf of Mr Kann seeking calligraphy of the Chinese character tao - meaning 'the way' according to Taoist philosophy.

'Out on consideration of promoting cultural exchanges between China and the United States, Mr Guan wrote a tao with unique style for Peter Kann,' the newspaper said. The report said the master felt his copyright was violated when he found out in February last year that his calligraphy has been used as part of a commercial design. 'In this period, Mr Guan negotiated with Dow Jones on several occasions over his rights but Dow Jones denied it has infringed his rights,' it said.

The report said in its submission to the court that Dow Jones agreed the calligraphy was written by Mr Guan but maintained its usage had been authorised by the master.

It added that the company had offered in 1994 to pay the master for his service but the offer was declined. 'The submission by the defendant, Dow Jones, says that the plaintiff's claim that the use of the character tao by Dow Jones constitutes an infringement of his copyright is not based on facts,' the newspaper said.

Commissions for calligraphy and paintings are common among foreign executives doing business on the mainland.