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Malaysia 4As rules Kancils winner ‘not sufficiently similar’ to infringe copyright as questions raised about two other Dentsu entries

"Not sufficiently similar"

Dentsu Utama’s ad (left) “Not sufficiently similar” to Challenge Skateboard design

Malaysian ad industry body the 4As has ruled that award-winning print work for a Chinese medicine brand called into question for copycatting at the Kancil Awards at the end of last year did not breach any copyright laws and the awards will not be withdrawn.

In a story published by Mumbrella in December, similarities were noted between the ‘Skateboard poster’ idea for a topical liniment brand by Dentsu Utama – which won 20 awards at the Kancils – and a project for a company that produces designs for skateboards.

Following a formal investigation by the 4As in consultation with an international copyright law firm, the images used in the Uyee Chinese Medical Company’s Skateboard posters were deemed “not sufficiently similar to [Challenge Skateboard’s design to] constitute copyright infringement,” so the eight silvers and 12 bronzes that helped Dentsu Utama win agency of the year at the Kancils will stand.

Dentsu Utama engaged IP law firm Olswang LLP to review the work, which, like a project for Challenge Skateboard in China in 2011, used skateboard decorations featuring Chinese medicine imagery as posters.

In an extract from a a statement issued in response to Mumbrella’s story, Kancils jury chairman Tan Kien Eng wrote:

The Skateboard images used for the Uyee Chinese Medical Company are not sufficiently similar to constitute copyright infringement.

As articulated by Olswang LLP, the test for copyright infringement is comparing the images to identify similarities – disregarding similarities that are unoriginal or comprise general ideas – and assess whether those similarities are sufficiently close, numerous and extensive to constitute breach of copyright or whether the changes demonstrate a new In this context, the rights holders cannot claim copyright of the image but only in the image alone, and therefore a reference to an existing image is not sufficient to constitute infringement.

Given the above explanation, the conclusion based on review of materials, design processes, internal discussions, and the opinion of the external IP expert, is that there is no infringement to the Rules of Eligibility [of the Kancil Awards].

Also involved in the enquiry, led by Tan, were Dato’ Johnny Mun, the 4As Malaysia president, T. Renganathan, the Kancil Awards 2015 organising chairman, the CEO of Dentsu Utama, Omar Shaari, and the agency’s ECD Chow Kok Keong, who told Mumbrella in December that he had not seen the Challenge Skateboard work before.

Dentsu Utama’s print and outdoor work for WWF Indonesia, which won 26 bronzes and three silvers at the Kancils this year, was accused of plagiarism by 21 year-old British design student Tom Anders Watkins late last month. The student tweeted: Hey, @dentsuaegis @WWF I think you may have blatantly copied my design in your award winning poster.”

His work, which like Dentsu Utama’s used circles to draw various endangered species, was published in April 2014. A story by Cilisos headlined ‘Did a Malaysian ad agency win an award for copying a UK designer?’ has been widely shared in social media.

Dentsu Utama's ‘'Cross River Gorilla’ WWF ad (right) and work of design student Tom Anders Watkins

Dentsu Utama’s ‘Cross River Gorilla’ WWF ad (right) and work of design student Tom Anders Watkins. Image: Malay Mail

In a statement shared with the Malay Mail, the agency’s CEO Omar Shaari said the agency had “very strict policies around the use of third party content in our creative materials,” and treats allegations of copycatting “extremely seriously”.

He said that an email Anders Watkins had supposedly sent to the agency had not been located, but Dentsu Utama was trying to make contact with the student.

In the comment thread of Mumbrella’s story about the Uyee ad, a link was posted that showed similarities between the work of Swedish artist Erik Johansson, as featured in a Mail Online story about the artist’s work, and another Dentsu Utama award-winner, for Web Privacy Watch.

Swedish artist Erik Johansson's inside out house

Swedish artist Erik Johansson’s inside-out house in work titled The Architect

Both used the inside-out house idea. In the ad for the IT security firm, the man sat at his desk is wearing women’s underwear to highlight the dangers of cyber snooping.

Dentsu Utama's ad for Web Privacy Watch. "You're never alone online"

Dentsu Utama’s ‘Nothing is private online’ ad for Web Privacy Watch.

Mumbrella has requested comment from the Malaysian 4As.

Last year’s Grand Kancil-winner ad was called out for copycatting.

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