Do more to respect, protect artistic creation

Cultural Medallion winner Lee Wen has stated that he was not informed or given credit for the idea behind a horseshoe-shaped ping-pong table installed at the Sports Hub for the SEA Games carnival which resembled his artwork Ping-Pong Go Round ("Ping-pong table too similar to artwork?"; last Saturday).

The SEA Games organising committee has said that there was no intention to infringe on any rights, and that a vendor who was unaware of the similarity proposed the activity.

Since 1998, Lee's Ping-Pong Go Round has toured widely round the world. Lee has clarified that a proposal to exhibit this artwork in front of the Sports Hub was submitted to the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and the Sports Hub last year, and that the minister's office confirmed receipt of this proposal.

It is curious that something so similar later appeared at the Sports Hub.

We understand that the installation has since been dismantled and discussions are currently ongoing among all relevant parties.

We hope an amicable outcome can be reached, so Lee's art can continue to engage the public.

This is a good example of how art can enliven spaces and connect strangers to one another in fun and imaginative ways.

Such projects illustrate the endless possibilities art can bring to make Singapore a more attractive place, and should be encouraged.

It is troubling, however, that due consideration and acknowledgement were not initially given to the artist.

We are also concerned that the intellectual property (IP) lawyers consulted in last Saturday's report felt no copyright had been infringed.

This incident highlights the lack of sufficient measures that respect and protect artistic creation in Singapore.

In a nation that has been consistently ranked by international surveys as having one of the best IP protection laws in the world, why did this incident occur?

Even if it was legal, was it ethical?

This incident raises questions about the environment for creativity and original content creation in Singapore - key outputs desired by national policies that have been calling for Singapore to become a knowledge economy powered by innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

More can be done to encourage, respect and protect content creation.

The Government has made tremendous efforts in growing and professionalising the arts.

Unfortunately, limited understanding of artists' rights and standard industry practices remains.

Artists should be given legitimate recognition and reward for the time and effort they spend on proposing and creating artworks, with the assurance that their ideas and creations are protected from plagiarism and imitation.

We hope this incident will inspire more discussion on IP in the arts, and concrete steps can be taken towards according clearer IP protection for arts and cultural workers.

Audrey Wong (Ms)

This letter carries 229 signatures.


This article was first published on June 11, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.