Do you know D.C.?
Get our free newsletter to stay in the know about local D.C.
Arash Norouzi clicked over to the official Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life Web site on July 21, days before the film opened. He didn’t care much about the movie. But Tomb Raider features Simon Yam, Norouzi’s favorite Hong Kong actor and the star attraction on his own personal Web site. There was nothing about Yam on the Paramount Pictures site that day, so the Gaithersburg resident checked back the following morning. That’s when he discovered what he says both surprised and didn’t surprise him: large chunks of a Yam biography Norouzi had written and posted on his own site three years earlier.
Norouzi, a 30-year-old freelance illustrator, says it wasn’t the first time his work had been borrowed. “I guess the free flow of information [online]…makes us think we’re all entitled to it,” says Norouzi. “We even think we’re entitled to take credit for it and use it for commercial purposes.”
He says two journalistsreporters at an English-language Malaysian newspaperhave helped themselves to excerpts from the same biography without crediting him. And another prominent Hong Kong actor once hijacked a Norouzi-written bio. “He said, ‘Hey, I have my official site up. Check it out.’ So I go to it, and it’s the entire biography that I wrote, without credit.”
Norouzi says there’s little English writing about Chinese film stars available onlinewhich, he reasons, may contribute to such petty theft. Still, it rankles: Although he already had a copyright symbol and an “all rights reserved” warning posted at SimonYam.com, Norouzi recently emphasized the point with two more words: “No plagiarism!”
The Yam bio on the Tomb Raider site includes four paragraphs identical to portions of the Norouzi-written bio except for the addition of two sentences and the substitution of the word “over” with “more than.” A Paramount publicist who declined to give her name says that for press kits and promotional sites, the studio typically uses biographies provided by the actors’ camps. Representatives for Yam couldn’t be reached for comment; the Tomb Raider bio was still online as of Aug. 5.
Norouzi says he’s irked by the possibility that Yam’s handlers lifted his writing given the free publicity he’s provided the actor. Yam piqued his interest in the mid-’90s, when Norouzi was attending New York’s School of Visual Arts and made a habit of catching Hong Kong films in Chinatown. The two finally met when Yam appeared at a Baltimore anime festival in 2000.
At that event, Norouzi says, Yam authorized his fan’s SimonYam.com site, and the two posed together for Yam’s photographer. Yam took Norouzi’s address and said he would send copies. He also promised his complete filmography, Norouzi says. Neither ever arrived, and Norouzi hasn’t heard from Yam since. “It’s kind of disappointing,” he says.
But Norouzi’s devotion hasn’t wavered. His site includes a Yam filmography, television history, news section (updated weekly), quotation page, and photo gallery. A “Six Degrees of Simon” section is due soon, and Norouzi is plotting a lighthearted essay on the Yam appendage that always seems to find itself in harm’s way onscreen: Yam’s penis. (It’s been held at gunpoint and tied to a barrel, among other misfortunes.)
Norouzi tempers his Yam infatuation with a degree of self-awareness. He sees his site as a parody of the usual fan page. “I’m conscious of the absurdity of it,” he notes.
As for the possible copyright infringement, Norouzi says he’s contacted a Hollywood lawyer: “Someone got paid to put that up there, so I should get paid for writing it.” Dave Jamieson