Company alleges misconduct over copyright dispute with screenwriter
Beijing courts have denied claims of misconduct and bias after China"s leading ballet company was forced to pay damages over a copyright dispute involving one of its best-known shows.
The National Ballet of China was ordered to pay 120,000 yuan ($17,600) to writer Liang Xin in 2015 after losing a lawsuit over the rights to The Red Detachment of Women.
After two failed appeals, the ballet troupe was forced to pay up by Xicheng District People"s Court on Dec 28, prompting the company to issue a strong statement on Tuesday that accused the judge in the original hearing of "perverting the course of justice" and questioned the fairness of the rulings.
The statement caused a stir among Beijing court officials and legal experts.
In response, the Xicheng court released a detailed explanation for the 2015 verdict and said it will continue to push the company to apologize to Liang"s family. The screenwriter died in January 2017.
"We had twice urged the company to follow the ruling (to pay compensation), but it ignored, so we used enforcement measures to take the money," the court said on Tuesday without elaborating on the measures.
At the original hearing in 2012, Liang said he had signed a deal in 1993 to allow the company to perform the show in exchange for 5,000 yuan, but that deal expired after a decade. He said he had received neither payment nor credit for performances staged between 2003 and 2012.
After three years of deliberation, the National Ballet was ordered to pay damages and make a written apology, as it had failed to acknowledge the copyright holder when introducing the production on its website.
Both the capital"s intellectual property court and high court upheld the verdict on appeal.
On Tuesday night, the high court shared the district court"s statement about the case via social media, while the Supreme People"s Court posted a commentary online defending the ruling.
However, the company"s statement and those by the three courts were all deleted from the web on Wednesday.
Yu Guofu, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property disputes, said the verdict appeared win-win, as it protects the copyright holder and means the works can still be watched by more people.
"All legal avenues have been exhausted in this case," he said. "The company should respect and abide by the ruling, and it must provide evidence if it accuses someone."
In Yu"s view, the dispute between the courts and the company is not a bad thing. "Instead, it"s a lesson on the law," he added. "It helps people understand more about court rulings, and teaches us how to protect copyright."
The National Ballet has said the copyright issue means future performances of the show could be canceled.
The Red Detachment of Women, which Liang wrote in the 1950s, tells the story of a downtrodden housemaid in Hainan province who joins a troop of female soldiers to defeat a cruel warlord. It was adapted for the big screen in 1961.