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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lenin Sparks Royalties Fight

APA Lenin statue being covered in the park after royalties were demanded.
GRUTAS, Lithuania — Is a communist-era statue of Lenin art? Should it be subject to royalties? Is it less artful when covered by a black plastic bag?

These questions are at the heart of a copyright dispute being played out at a quirky theme park in Lithuania popularly known as "Stalin's World."

A Lithuanian copyright watchdog agency is now demanding that the park owner hand over royalties amounting to 6 percent of his annual income from the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the park and its collection of communist-era statues.

The Lithuanian Copyright Protection Association maintains that the statues and the Soviet anthems blasting from the park's loudspeakers are subject to copyright rules. It claims to represent seven Lithuanian artists who carved some of the sculptures during the five decades the Baltic country was part of the Soviet Union.

"It does not matter whether they were made in Soviet times. If one makes a profit from displaying artwork, he has to pay fees," said the agency's director, Edmundas Vaitiekunas.

The park's owner said the agency would not receive a cent, arguing that royalties could not be applied to works commissioned by an occupying power.

"This is absurd. They want us to pay for those stone idols that were used for 50 years to serve the occupying regime and terrorize people's minds," said Viliumas Malinauskas, a millionaire who created Grutas Park in 2001.

"We also display sculptures from Russia and other former Soviet republics, but no one from those countries is asking for money," he added.

To protest the agency's claims, he has turned off the music and wrapped plastic bags over the Lenin and Stalin statues sculpted by the seven artists.

"Stalin's World" spans 20 hectares of drained swamp about a half-hour drive from the capital, Vilnius.

Next to the sculptures, monuments and paintings charged with communist ideology is a merry-go-round, a restaurant and a small zoo.

Malinauskas, 65, said he invested 6 million litas ($2 million) in the park and that he could incur $1.3 million in losses if part of the Soviet exhibition is closed.

Still, he says he is used to opposition. Several years ago a group of lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to shut the park down.

"The new attack against our park proves there still are people in Lithuania who miss Soviet times and are eager to feed off someone else," Malinauskas said.