Huanhe, an NFT trading platform owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent, released on Monday a series of digital ink horse collections based on artworks by Xu Beihong, a famous Chinese painter also known as Ju Péon. There are eight tokens in this series, each of which is limited to 3,620 copies, and each one sells for 128 yuan ($19.11). However, the Peon Art Museum had previously issued a statement on May 29, pointing out that it had not authorized Huanhe to distribute the digital collections, causing a copyright dispute.
The Peon Art Museum, located in Chongqing, is a memorial art museum built by the local government at the site of Xu Beihong’s former residence. In the statement issued on a domestic social media platform, the museum claimed: “Some digital platforms sell related digital collections in the name of Mr. Xu Beihong. These digital collections, however, are based on fake works or cannot provide evidence to originality. Some even have nothing to do with Mr. Xu at all. These mixed collections seriously damage the rights and interests of consumers, and infringe on Mr. Xu’s right of reputation and identity and various intellectual property rights obtained by his descendants according to law.”
Redarding this announcement, a spokesperson for Huanhe responded: “It has been more than 50 years since Mr. Xu Beihong passed away, so the owner of the auction proceeds has the right to independently authorize cooperation with Huanhe. The specific source cannot be notified. We strictly supervise the authorization of cooperation materials and works, and the sale works are released after authorization.”
Customer service content on the Huanhe app reads: “We are not publishing the works of the Peon Art Museum,” adding that the collection was “authorized by the issuer, the Beijing Imperial City Art Trading Center.”
The staff of the Beijing Imperial City Art Trading Center confirmed to domestic media outlet Blockchain Daily that the center does have authorization for the digital collection on Huanhe.
Lawyers cited Chinese copyright law, saying that as Mr. Xu Beihong passed away in 1953, his works have now become public, and others can use them without permission or remuneration. However, the author’s name should be marked, and the work cannot be modified without authorization.
According to incomplete statistics, many digital collection platforms have released NFTs related to Xu Beihong, including “Shuzimao” launched by SenseTime, Whale Tan and Huanhe.