In 1994, LIU Zedai was commissioned by the director and others of the animation named "Big Head Son and Small Head Dad" in the 1995 edition to create frontal images of the characters "Big Head Son", "Small Head Dad", and "Apron Mom". The two parties did not sign any written agreement on the ownership of the copyright of the work. It was explicitly stated in the list of cast members in the 1995 edition of the animation: "Character design: LIU Zedai". In 2012, LIU Zedai transferred all the copyrights of three works including "Big Head Son" to HONG Liang. In 2013, LIU Zedai signed a commission creation agreement and a supplementary agreement successively with CCTV Animation Group Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as CCTV Animation), agreeing that CCTV Animation owns all intellectual property rights of the three character designs, including "Big Head Son", except for the right of authorship. Later, LIU Zedai signed a statement confirming the above facts and claimed that signing the transfer contract with HONG Liang was a result of misleading. CCTV Animation also submitted a written statement signed by LIU Zedai in 1995 to the court, which confirmed that the ownership of the three character designs belongs to CCTV. Hangzhou Big Head Son Culture Development Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Big Head Son Culture) filed a lawsuit in court, claiming that CCTV Animation infringed on its copyright. The first instance court held that LIU Zedai enjoyed copyright in the three art works because the two parties did not sign a contract to agree on the ownership of the copyright. Big Head Son Culture obtained the copyright of the above-mentioned works according to the transfer contract. CCTV Animation's unauthorized use constituted infringement and should bear the liability for infringement. CCTV Animation's appeal and application for retrial were both rejected, and an appeal was filed with the Supreme People's Court in accordance with the law. After being brought up for trial, the Supreme People's Court revised its judgment and determined that the involved work was created by commission, and that the copyright and other intellectual property rights, except for the right of authorship, belonged to CCTV Animation. The judgment rejected all litigation requests from Big Head Son Culture.
This case clarifies the criteria for judging commissioned creative works, legal representative works, and special duty works, as well as the method for analyzing and identifying ownership evidence. It provides reference for the protection of the rights of copyright holders in works under special historical backgrounds and has positive significance in stimulating cultural innovation and creation, supporting the widespread dissemination of excellent cultural works, and promoting high-quality development of the cultural industry.
(Case source: Supreme People's Court (Top 10 Intellectual Property Cases of Chinese Courts in 2022))