Creativity or copying

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-07-04 07:44:28

Creativity or copying

[Photo by Gao Zanmin/China Daily]

How should a filmmaker acknowledge his source material? Many may err on the side of imprudence and a few on the side of caution. But with copyright material, it can be a process of trial and error as everyone involved follows the learning curve of respect.

On June 28, a Beijing district court issued its verdict on the infringement case that involves a best-selling novel and its film adaptation. Last year, Zhang Muye, whose pen name is Tianxia Bachang, accused makers of Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe of several violations, among which were the filmmakers' failure to give him credit and their butchering of his original novel.

The movie opens with a line that says it is adapted from the first volume of The Adventures of Three Tomb Raiders, but it does not mention Zhang's name. The court found this credit insufficient and has ordered the producers to apologize to Zhang and add his name to the film as the original author. As for the other claim, for which Zhang was seeking 1 million yuan ($151,500) in compensation, the court ruled in favor of the defendants, saying the filmmakers have the right to make certain changes to the original literary source.

The Chinese screen saw two adaptations from The Adventures of Three Tomb Raiders last year-first by Lu Chuan and shortly afterward Wuershan's Mojin: The Lost Legend. The confusion was the result of Zhang, who sold the film rights to different buyers, the first four volumes to one buyer, who hired Lu to write and direct the first volume, and the other four volumes to another who hired Wuershan, who in turn hired Zhang as one of the screenwriters.

Both adaptations veered drastically from the novel and both filmmakers gave me the same reasons for creating new stories.

Chinese regulators do not allow on the screen supernatural phenomenon or illegal activities like tomb raiding, and the episodic narration of the novel does not lend itself to a feature film. Well, Mojin does contain tomb raiding, but the heroes are thrust into it by circumstances.

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