Chinese singer slammed for snapping photos of movie in cinema
Published: Feb 19, 2024 11:03 PM
Xue Zhiqian Photo:IC

Xue Zhiqian Photo:IC

China's well-known singer-songwriter Xue Zhiqian shared a review on his Sina Weibo account after watching the newly released film Pegasus 2 by novelist-turned-director Han Han. Yet the post, which included three photos of the film snapped at the cinema, has sparked heated discussion over whether posting "pirated" photos online infringed on the copyright of the film.

The comedy series Pegasus was released and well-received during the 2019 Spring Festival holidays. Five years later, the filmmaker returned with the long-awaited sequel, which was released on February 10. 

Xue, who has more than 57.19 million followers on Sina Weibo, posted a positive and passionate review of the film on Thursday that included a selfie and three photos of scenes playing on the big screen during the film. 

His post soon sparked controversy online, with many criticizing him for disrespecting copyright law and the filmmaker's efforts. The singer wrote two more posts alluding to the criticisms to show his disagreement. The hashtag "Xue Zhiqian responds to pirated photos" then began trending on Sina Weibo, earning more than 7.44 million views by Monday afternoon.

Some netizens argued that Xue's photos did not reveal the plot nor were they used for commercial purposes. They added that his behavior should not be considered an infringement of the film's copyright.

Other movie enthusiasts held different opinions. 

"It is very frustrating to have people in front you distracting you with the bright screens of their phones at the cinema. I want to fully immerse myself in the darkness and the film, that's why I go there. And I think it's unfair for people who haven't watched a film yet. Say everyone posted photos without spoilers. Yet with different photos all over the internet, you're doomed to be spoiled," a movie lover who ran into similar situations during the Spring Festival holidays told the Global Times.  

Many industry professionals maintained that not snapping photos or taking videos at the cinema is a basic movie theater etiquette and that it is especially inappropriate for a public figure to make excuses for such behavior. 

But some law insiders pointed out that snapping photos at cinemas is not illegal. 

"Posting photos of publicly released films with reasonable purposes such as study, education, and film review is permitted," said Zhu Wei, deputy director of the communication law center at China University of Political Science and Law, during an interview with China's state broadcaster CCTV on Friday. 

Xue reposted the interview clip on Sina Weibo the same day, garnering 312,000 likes.

Back in 2019, when the domestic youth drama Better Days released, the film's official account on Sina Weibo posted, "Do not record or take photos, let's protect Better Days together."

When the long-expected Japanese animation movie The First Slam Dunk released in Chinese mainland in April 2023, photos of the movie taken at cinemas were widely shared by fans on social media. The film's official Sina Weibo account condemned photographing and shooting videos of the film at cinemas.