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Crowd Justice campaign by Vancouver-based poet and translator Yilin Wang successfully reaches target to initiate court proceedings against British Museum.

Exterior view of the British Museum

Ham/Creative Commons

A writer, poet and translator is set to take legal action against the British Museum over alleged copyright and moral rights infringement following a successful Crowd Justice campaign.

Vancouver-based artist Yilin Wang has so far raised money £17,000. The law firm representing her, Howard Kennedy LLP, had previously suggested a figure of £15,000 was the "bare minimum needed to get the claim started".

Wang alleges that her work was taken without permission and exhibited as part of the British Museum's China’s Hidden Century exhibition last month.


Her fundraising campaign outlines details of how a full copy of her published translation of a poem by the Chinese feminist poet Qiu Jin was used by the British Museum without any contact or payment offered.

On her awareness page, the artist highlights that "the exhibition featured a full copy of my 23-line translation of Qiu Jin’s poem A River of Crimson: A Brief Stay in the Glorious Capital" and that it was used across "multiple formats (in a giant projection, on a sign, in digital and print audio guides, in an audio form and its transcript, and in an audio guide in their app store) in connection with the physical exhibition."

She said her translations were also quoted in the exhibition book, with one translation having no attribution to her.

Wang tweeted the museum last month to flag her concern, demanding all her translations be removed from the China's Hidden Century exhibit.

"Please note this is a copyright infringement! How are you going to fix this?", she said.

Since her initial complaint, the British Museum has removed her work from the exhibition.

'Unintentional human error'

A statement from the British Museum said: "Recently we realised that permissions and acknowledgement for a translation by Yilin Wang had been inadvertently omitted from our exhibition China’s hidden century.

"This was an unintentional human error for which the Museum has apologised to Yilin Wang."

It added her translations were taken down in response to her request and she was offered financial payment for the period the translations appeared in the exhibition.

The British Museum also said staff members had been "subjected to personal attacks on social media" as a result of the incident, stating that this was "unacceptable".

John Sharpe a Commercial Intellectual Property and Art Lawyer at Howard Kennedy, said: "My experience of working with artists, writers and other creatives is that the worst and most dangerous thing anyone can do to them is leave them feeling unheard, dismissed and disrespected, and that is exactly what the British Museum have done here."

He added: "I am keenly aware that Yilin’s First Target of £15,000 is a huge amount of money. The miserable truth is that this is the bare minimum needed to get the claim started and that fighting any case all the way to trial in the UK costs many tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds (and beyond)."