UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000243
STATE PASS TO USTR (JCGROVES)
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON KIPR ETRD PGOV LH
SUBJECT: PROTECTING THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS OF SOVIET
AUTHORS IN LITHUANIA
Â¶1. Summary: A dispute over the right of Soviet-era artists to
profit from their work has generated an intriguing dispute that
threatens to damage a satirical amusement park cheekily referred to
as "Stalin World." The case raises several interesting legal and
moral questions and has helped raise awareness of intellectual
property rights in Lithuania. End Summary.
"Stalin World" comes to Lithuania
Â¶2. Grutas Park is a tongue-in-cheek theme park of Soviet-era statues
and memorabilia founded by Lithuanian entrepreneur Viliumas
Malinauskas. Located just outside of Druskininkai (a spa town 120 km
southwest of Vilnius), "Stalin World" -- a common nickname for the
park -- features playgrounds, a mini-zoo, cafes, and an entrance
guarded by actors dressed as KGB or military officers who pull
random visitors out of the queue for mock interrogations.
Established in 2000, Grutas Park has become a major tourist
Who owns tyranny's trash?
Â¶3. After Lithuania regained its independence in 1990, Lithuanian
authorities removed most Soviet-era statues from their
often-prominent locations and dumped them in different places around
the country. Later, after seeing the success of Soviet-themed
sculpture gardens in other former Eastern Bloc countries, Lithuanian
entrepreneurs started contemplating similar parks in Lithuania.
Malinauskas won a government-organized tender in 1998 to collect
several dozen of the discarded sculptures to build a private museum,
and he opened Grutas Park two years later.
Â¶4. Lithuania's Authors' Rights Protection Agency (LATGA), at the
urging of seven Lithuanian artists who carved some of Grutas Park's
sculptures during the Soviet occupation, began demanding royalties
for these sculptors in December 2006. The fact that the sculptors
created these works while under contract with the Soviet government,
LATGA's director told the press, is irrelevant: "If a business is
making a profit from displaying artwork, it has to pay fees to the
artist." LATGA claims that Grutas Park needs to pay royalties of
six percent of the income it receives from the thousands of people
visiting the park every year.
Â¶5. Malinauskas refuses to pay, claiming that it is unfair for LATGA
to demand royalties for items that the Lithuanian government
essentially considered garbage at the time of the 1998 tender. (The
tender agreement apparently did not address the issue of authors'
rights.) In a press interview, Malinauskas said that the idea of
paying royalties on works commissioned by an occupying power was
"absurd," arguing that LATGA was demanding payment for "stone idols
that were used to serve an occupying regime and terrorize people's
minds for 50 years."
Authors' rights, Soviet style
Â¶6. One sculptor whose Soviet-era creations are on display at Grutas
Parkas (but is not part of the group demanding royalties) sided with
the park, but told us that the current legal situation is unclear.
He said that sculptors hired by the Soviet Government signed a
contract that gave them not only a one-time payment on delivery for
their creations, but included guarantees for royalties, for example,
if their works were photographed and shown in magazines. When
Lithuania gained independence, he said, the new government both
created new laws and simply transferred others from the Soviet
system. The new Lithuanian government did not, however, transfer
Soviet-era IPR laws, nor did it create laws that addressed
Soviet-era art. He told us that he thinks it is inappropriate for
the artists who once sold their works to the Soviet government to
request royalties today.
Take them back, if they're so important
Â¶7. Protesting against LATGA's claims, Malinauskas first turned off
the broadcast of Soviet anthems in the park so the Soviet-era
songwriters and recording artists could not claim royalties for his
broadcast of their work. He then removed the statues created by the
seven protesting sculptors, placing them outside the park's fence,
telling the sculptors that they were free to come claim their work
if they wished. To date, none has.
Â¶8. This dispute is unlikely to reach resolution anytime soon. Even
setting aside the difficult moral questions associated with those
who worked for the Soviet regime, the case is difficult because it
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raises complex legal issues that lawyers will battle out in the
months to come. Beyond the specifics of this case, however, this
dispute is important because it has brought a public discussion
about the importance of IPR protection to the front pages of
Lithuania's national newspapers. Only a few years ago, few
Lithuanians would have understood what all the fuss was about, and
LATGA probably would not have risked taking such a public stand on
such a politically charged issue. Now, public awareness of IPR
protection has matured to the point where people are considering the
issue as a point of law, and more than a few are willing to argue
publicly that even artists that worked for the hated Soviet regime
have rights, too.