Court to rule if copyright is required for nonfiction film

A copyright case has brought the issue of whether a movie based on a true story needs to be authorized into sharp focus.

Wang Qiang, the plaintiff in the case, which the Chaoyang District People's Court heard in Beijing late last month, was found to have cerebral palsy two months after he was born. His parent never gave up seeking a solution to his recovery.

Traditional Chinese medical treatment helped Wang gain the abilities to take care of himself. His father had worked as a boxing coach in Tianjin and taught him boxing to protect himself.

Despite difficulties, Wang has grown into a professional boxer. He now coaches children and helps amateur boxers practice. His success story has been covered widely. One of the defendants in the case, film director Gao Weilun, has contacted Wang and his family many times, trying to obtain authorization to shoot a movie based on his experience, according to the plaintiff side.

Wang rejected the request, because he had already signed a contract with Tangheys, a movie studio in Qingdao, Shandong province, in 2015, authorizing the latter exclusively to use his story to write a play and make a movie. Tangheys owns the movie's copyright, according to the agreement.

A poster of the movie Never Give Up is publicized for promotion on the official website of Tangheys.

Yet Wang said he found that Gao used a lot of pictures of himself and his father to promote another movie on his website, claiming the movie was based on the true story of "genius boxer Wang", a cerebral palsy patient.

Wang filed a complaint against Gao, together with three related companies, alleging that they had infringed upon his copyright.

The defendants told the court that Wang is not the copyright owner of the movie in question, which belongs to Tangheys, so he is disqualified from initiating the legal action. Furthermore, they claimed that a true story is different from a script - the latter is a work involving creation and art processing and thus is copyrighted, while the former is not.

Also, they asserted that they had stopped making their movie in June 2018, removing the related information from the website and diverted the capital that would otherwise be used for the movie to other projects.

Tian Jianhong, Wang's attorney, told the Beijing News that behind the copyright dispute is the key issue of whether a movie based on a true story needs to obtain authorization.

The case is still pending final court ruling.

(Source: China Daily)