Monday, 25 May 2015

Mr Lee Kuan Yew's name and image to be protected


New law on Mr Lee 'not aimed at artists or creative work'
MCCY: Intent of law is to prevent use of his name or image in commercial products
By Walter Sim, The Sunday Times, 31 May 2015

A new law to safeguard the name and image of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew from commercial profit is not aimed at restricting artistic or creative work, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said yesterday.

Such work could include paintings, books, movies, photographs or performances that make use of Mr Lee's name or image, a ministry spokesman said in response to queries from The Sunday Times.

"Such works may be sold for private gain, but they are different from merchandised products for the mass market. Hence they will not be covered under the proposed law," the spokesman said.

"The specific intent of the proposed law is to prevent Mr Lee's image or name from being used in commercial merchandise. Examples are things like chocolate boxes, souvenir coins or medallions and office stationery," she added.

The ministry's clarification comes amid concerns from several quarters and criticism online that the new law could have a chilling effect on artistic expression that features Mr Lee, who died on March 23, aged 91.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong had said last weekend that the law would be changed in response to concerns from the public - shared by the Government - that companies and individuals are trying to profit from Mr Lee's legacy.

He highlighted two principles the Government will be working with: One, the protection would be against the use of Mr Lee's name and image for commercial gain, not works of tribute or for charity. Two, it would not be a blanket ban but a case-by-case approach in which the authorities' approval is required before use.

Yesterday, the MCCY said it will put up a draft Bill and rules for public consultation when ready, after which the Bill has to be passed by Parliament and assented to by the President. It did not give a timeline.

Asked whether the law would cover merchandise or transactions outside Singapore, the ministry said this was something it needed to study further.

News that the law was not aimed at restricting creative work came as a relief to artists like freelance designer Christopher "Treewizard" Pereira, 57, who has been making caricature figurines of Mr Lee that range in size from 12cm to 30cm since 2009.

He told The Sunday Times he was initially worried he might not be able to produce and sell his work under the impending law in spite of his good intentions. He decided to make his figurines out of a love for the country and respect for Mr Lee, he added.





Mr Lee Kuan Yew's name and image to be protected
Govt looking into how to prevent them from being used for commercial gain
By Rachel Chang, Assistant Political Editor, The Sunday Times, 24 May 2015

In an unprecedented move, the Government will change the law to stop the name and image of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew from being used for commercial gain.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said yesterday that this was in response to concerns from the public that companies and individuals are trying to profit from Mr Lee's legacy. He added that the Government shared these concerns.

Mr Lee died on March 23 at age 91.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a community event, Mr Wong said the Government is in the early stages of determining how exactly to carry out this protection. He highlighted two principles it is working with.

First, the protection would be against the use of Mr Lee's name and image for commercial gain only - not for works of tribute or for charity.

Second, it would not be a blanket ban but a case-by-case approach in which the authorities' approval is required before use.

This is how the law regulates the use of the state crest, for example, under the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act (SAFNA).

Mr Wong said the Government would either expand SAFNA to cover Mr Lee's name and image, or write a new law.

It is studying examples from other countries like Australia and New Zealand, where laws prevent the commercial use of certain words. The list of these protected words is then separately gazetted, so it can be added to or refined in future, noted Mr Wong.

This will help the Government tread carefully in terms of which words to regulate. Mr Lee's initials are just as famous, for example, but many share them.

Asked for examples of exploitative commercial use of Mr Lee's name and image, Mr Wong cited "the company that tried to do the buns", as well as those making T-shirts or figurines for sale.

During the week of national mourning in March, local bakery chain BreadTalk sold a line of buns called "Lee bu kai ni", loosely translated as "cannot bear to leave you", punning on Mr Lee's surname in Mandarin.

BreadTalk pulled the buns after a public outcry and apologised.

However, Mr Wong said Mr Lee's image in the design of the widely used black ribbon of mourning, or in portraits that were sold for charity earlier this month, were examples of what the Government was not opposed to.

"I think there is a very clear distinction between somebody who does it for charitable reasons, somebody who does it to pay tribute without making profit, and an individual or company who is specifically doing it for profit or commercial gain," he said.

But the technicoloured portraits of Mr Lee by Tianjin artist Ren Zhenyu are also sold commercially for the artist's private gain, although two were sold for charity for $800,000 earlier this month.

The intended new legislation must contend with a myriad of such grey areas, said lawyers yesterday.

"The State feels it is a legacy that they wish to protect," said ATMD Bird and Bird intellectual property lawyer Cyril Chua. "But an idea is one thing, while crystallising it into an applicable law is another."

Registering an image as a trademark is a famously difficult endeavour, as artists often argue that their interpretations of an image are in themselves separate images, he noted.

Rajah and Tann intellectual property lawyer Lau Kok Keng said the proposed law threw up many questions, such as the rights of photographers who have taken pictures of Mr Lee. Photographers own the copyright to their own pictures.

There is also the issue of how the law would affect someone who bears a striking resemblance to Mr Lee and parlays that into commercial gain.

Mr Lau added that the move would also require Mr Lee's estate and descendants to cede control over the use of his image and likeness to the State, an unprecedented act.


No comments:

Post a Comment