On Monday, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court affirmed the December judgment of a lower court, ordering the State Postal Bureau to pay a Beijing folk artist 88,000 yuan (US$10,600) in damages for copyright infringement.
The postal bureau and its affiliated Postage Stamp Printing Bureau were also ordered to apologize to Bai Xiu'e for using a copy of her paper-cut art on a commemorative stamp in 2001 without her permission.
The Beijing Evening News reported that Li Xin, an executive editor at the printing bureau, discovered Bai's works at a Beijing expo in 1999. Li bought four snake-pattern paper-cuts for 970 yuan (US$117). No contract for the transference of the copyright was signed nor were fees paid for copying Bai's patterns in large numbers.
The lunar calendar's snake year fell in 2001. The printing office altered one of Bai's patterns and used it for a commemorative stamp that it issued nationwide.
The artist later took the two groups to court, asking for 1 million yuan (US$120,000) in compensation.
To focus on the case, the 35-year-old Bai reportedly refused all invitations to supply her works to other organizations and declined to take part in competitions.
The postal bureau denied allegations that it had violated the artist's copyright. The Beijing Evening News reported that a representative of the bureau said that copyright to folk art, like Bai's, is not clearly defined by law.
The defendants also argued that bureau designers had made some alterations to Bai's design and that her name was placed on the list of artists.
Bai, born into a rural family in Yan'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, started her career in paper-cutting in 1988. She came to Beijing in 1996, where she earned a strong reputation for her exquisite designs and fresh rural themes.
(China Daily July 1, 2004)