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Lawsuit looms over South China tiger photos
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Luo Guanglin, picture producer for a popular New Year's calendar, filed a lawsuit yesterday in the Yiwu People's Court against Zhou Zhenglong and Guan Ke for impinging upon his reputation. He published two complaints in his blog, asking Zhou Zhenglong and Guan Ke to make public apologies and asked for compensation of 30,000 yuan (about US$4127.68): 10,000 yuan from Zhou Zhenglong and 20,000 yuan from Guan Ke.
On November 16, 2007 one netizen discerned that the South China tiger photographed by Zhou Zhenglong was similar to the New Year's calendar picture hanging in his family.
Luo Guanglin, general manager of Vista Printing and Wrapping Co. Ltd., the New Year calendar picture producer, testified that his company had designed the New Year's calendar picture. Later he produced much evidence, including photographic film and the first version of the New Year's picture with a time stamp. has received an exclusive scoop stating that the tiger photo Luo Guanglin leased years ago for commercial use derives from the Panorama Photo Stock Co. Ltd., one of biggest photo agencies in China. The source inside Panorama Stock added that the original photo came from the Zefa photo agency, a German company Panama Stock had once represented in China. The Chinese agency has found a photographic transparency, which can be used as evidence if the case goes to court. The source said that they believed it is the same tiger and that they will support Luo Guanglin in this case.

When the calendar picture was first discovered, Guan Ke, an official with the information office inside the Shaanxi Provincial Forestry Department, told many members of the media, including the South Metropolitan Daily, that the picture had been produced based on Zhou Zhenglong's photos with PhotoShop (PS) technology. Zhou Zhenglong also told the media that Luo Guanglin was bullying him, a simple farmer. Since then netizens who believed that South China tigers still existed have been constantly analyzing the fine print in the New Year's picture and trying to prove that the hullabaloo was just an advertising gimmick.
Luo Guanglin claimed that these comments greatly disturbed him. In order to prove his innocence yesterday, he filed a petition at the Yiwu People's Court. Previously he had filed suit in the court on January 2, 2008. Initially the court refused his case due to insufficient materials but yesterday legal authorities finally accepted the materials Luo Guanglin proffered. The court hasn't yet decided whether the case will be put on file for investigation. Luo will receive the court's final decision within seven days.   

In his indictment, Luo Guanglin argued that Guan Ke made irresponsible remarks without investigating the picture in question. Zhou Zhenglong accused him of plagiarizing his photos and spread the news that he had reported the case to the police. All these acts have inflicted great harm to his personal integrity and to his commercial reputation.

Many netizens attacked Luo's company website because they believed that Luo was spinning a story using Zhou Zhenglong's photos to gain the company more attention. 

The judge suggested that Luo file his lawsuit in Shanxi Province. Luo asserted, "I have to prove my innocence because someone said at an online forum that all Yiwu people are swindlers. So I have to continue this case on behalf of myself and all Yiwu businessmen."

In an interview with the South Metropolitan Daily Guan Ke said it was a good thing that Luo had filed a lawsuit. He has been expecting such a case for a long time. He learned about the case from several reporters via telephone. Currently he has not yet read the indictment.

Guan Ke also claimed that he has pointed out in his blog many times that it is up in the air whether Zhou Zhenglong duplicated the New Year's calendar picture or if Luo Guanglin simply fabricated it using PS technology. Police and legal authorities will determine the decisive answer. Guan Ke thought it was a good thing for Luo to file a lawsuit against Zhou Zhenglong or himself. He also hopes to see an end to this widely controversial issue. 

With regard to whether he would defend himself, he said that he was not clear about legal proceedings so he was unable to answer this question.

( by Zhang Ming'ai, January 8, 2008)

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