CCTV faces suit over photo used in festival gala

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 February, 2008, 12:00am

As if it didn't have enough trouble on its hands defending Zhang Ziyi's 1 million yuan pink chiffon dress and lip-syncing efforts, the producers of CCTV's Spring Festival Gala might soon face a tougher charge - unauthorised use of a Chongqing photographer's work.

When veteran photographer Li Lin saw the third performance of the night, a skit about a traffic policeman, a drunk driver and a speeding motorist, he immediately recognised the stage backdrop as one of his proudest works, a panoramic shot of Chongqing's busiest snack street taken on National Day in 2005.

To be sure, he took a photo off the television screen and compared the backdrop with copies of his work and found the only difference was the deletion of a building's name.

He remembered taking the photo as he balanced on a tiny spot at the top of a 20-storey building.

Convinced the photo was used without his approval or acknowledgement, Mr Li is determined to set things right.

He has engaged a lawyer and is prepared to sue China Central Television for 1 million yuan. 'I want them to respect and reward authors for their hard work. I want them to give me an answer,' he said.

The Spring Festival Gala is an entertainment show featuring the country's most popular stars, singers and comedians, and is still a viewing staple for mainland audiences on Lunar New Year's Eve. Figures indicate that 96 per cent of mainlanders stayed home to watch it this year.

Mr Li said he had three goals in bringing the legal action: to stop further unauthorised use of his photo, to obtain a public apology and to seek compensation.

'The Spring Festival Gala is not a charity show,' he said. 'With its coverage and profits, it is not too much to ask for even 5 million yuan.'

Mr Li's lawyer, Zhang Li, said the suit was aimed at pushing forward a system in which people would have to pay to use someone else's intellectual property.

'The price to obtain [permission to use] the photo would have been very low. But China Central Television did not do so,' Ms Zhang said.

'This is not only a matter of lack of awareness of such rights. Increasingly there's a mentality that they will not get caught.'