Thin edge between legal succession and heritage or the matter of copyright and commercial exploitation of brand

The last few years the administration of Kazan annually organizes “Aksenov festival” in the memory of Russian writer Vasily Aksenov. For this event, “Aksenov Fest”, theatrical performances have been funded and Aksenov’s literary works have been published in Tartarian language. But Aksenov heirs are not involved in it. They did not receive royalties and were not asked about any permission to exploit Aksenov’s intellectual property. That is what the heirs of Aksenov don’t like.

Aksenov’s nephew Aleksandr Zmeyl intends to file three lawsuits against Kazan’s department of culture. “This department during few years organized tenders to host “Aksenov Fest”. In this lawsuit we will require to admit the exploitation of Aksenov’s name as illegal in accordance with 1267 article of Russian civil law”, – stated Zmeyl. The second lawsuit will be filed against the stages, where theatrical performances have been organized without right holder’s consent. And the third lawsuit will be filed for illegal reproduction of Aksenov’s works, published in Tartarian language without right holder’s permission.

The sum of compensation in all three lawsuits will be 1 Rouble, as it was stated. The purpose of lawsuits is to “prove the rights of heirs, the right holders, to make decisions in relation to “Aksenov Fest”, which in current form does not have anything in common with Aksenov”. Aksenov’s nephew believes the organizers of festival don’t have any interest in Aksenov. The interest is in “Aksenov brand”. For brand it is possible to be funded, to organize “literary party” in Kazan, to communicate with governor of Kazan, believes Zmeyl.

The position of heirs is simple – they want to participate in organization of “Aksenov Fest”. They want to participate in choosing the supervisor of festival, to grant a permission to exploit “Aksenov’s personality”. Aksenov’s heirs have noticed that the price of tender to organize and host Aksenov Fest is approximately 5.5 million Roubles. Heirs were not notified of Festival and were not invited.

But Kazan’s administration did not discover any copyright infringement. “Vasily Aksenov has (wrote) beautiful works, and I believe they’ve “overgrown” copyright, they belong to our country, to whole world. Nobody ignores copyright… it must be abided. We work in accordance with law. We don’t have any problems with it. Our festival is public and we invite everyone,” – said the chief of department of culture in Kazan.

Aleksandr Kabakov, the member of Festival’s Board of Trustees, has stated that the rights to organize a festival belong to its creators. “We created the program of festival, and nephew claims his rights. The right holder holds the rights only in text”, – underlined Kabanov. The other member, Irina Barmetova, has also underlined that creation of festival is an “act of civil society”. “It is not about the succession of Aksenov, we don’t claim it, but we work with legacy”, – she said.