Human history shows that teachings are more easily absorbed if done through stories. It is no wonder then that our ancestors created the wayang as their teaching media. In ancient times wayang was widely used for teaching the good and bad values in life. Good was usually represented by the characters of Rama and Gatotkaca, while bad was represented by the characters of Rahwana and Kurawa.

Wayang means “puppet” in Bahasa Indonesia. Puppets in Indonesia have traditionally been made of leather and modeled after characters in the Ramayana and Mahabarata stories.

The method of teaching through stories carries on today, with the puppet still used as a medium of teaching. The Muppets, Sesame Street, Elmo’s World, and so on are some of the famous puppet shows for children nowadays.

In Indonesia we have our very own puppet show named “Boneka Si Unyil”, centred around a boy called Unyil and his adventures with his friends. In the story Unyil is a smart and honest boy who goes to primary school and is loved by his peers. Unyil’s character is very positive and he acts as the mediator when there is conflict between his peers. Besides Unyil, other main characters in the show include Ucrit, Usro, Pak Raden, Pak Ogah, Pak Ableh, Cuplis, and Kinoy.

Boneka si Unyil was very famous between 1981 and 1993. Most Indonesians who were children then would know the show very well. The stories of Boneka si Unyil were simple and light-hearted, and were easily followed by children, with topics taken from the everyday lives of Indonesian children, such as not cheating in exams, being respectful to parents and the elderly, honesty, and so forth.

The show was produced by Produksi Film Negara (PFN), a production house owned by the Indonesian Government. The characters of Unyil and his friends were designed and created by Mr. Suyadi. As such, he was directly involved in the production, and this is where the case begins.

Mr. Suyadi had little knowledge of copyrights when he created the characters for Boneka si Unyil. In December 1995 he signed an agreement that handed over the copyright for the characters he created to PFN, wherein it was stated that the agreement was valid for a term of 5 years.

A few days after signing the agreement, Mr. Suyadi signed a second agreement, which was similar in content to the first agreement. However, in the second agreement there was no time limit.

Three years after signing the agreements, Mr. Suyadi signed a letter releasing the copyright of the 11 characters of Unyil and friends to PFN. On 15 January 1999, the Directorate General of Intellectual Property (DGIP) received the copyright registrations of the 11 characters, in the name of PFN.

Mr. Suyadi has never received any compensation or royalty as the creator of the Boneka si Unyil characters. PFN claimed that all 11 characters belonged to it, and that all costs to turn Mr. Suyadi’s designs into puppets were borne by PFN.

The case dragged on from 1995 to 2014 as both parties strongly defended their grounds to own the copyright of the Boneka si Unyil characters. Based on Copyright Law, even though the copyright was owned and registered by PFN, Mr. Suyadi remains the creator of the characters. His name will be associated with his creations, and PFN, in utilizing the characters must pay royalty fees to Mr. Suyadi.

After many years, the fight finally yielded results. On 15 April 2014, a new agreement was signed between Mr. Suyadi and PFN, under new Director Shelvy Arifin, who was keen to mend ties with Mr. Suyadi. PFN also plans to develop the characters of Boneka si Unyil and take them worldwide. PFN and Mr. Suyadi now have a new license agreement for all the characters created by the latter.

In many copyrights cases, the right of the creator is sometimes neglected. To avoid similar incidences in the future, creators of work eligible for copyright should consult with IP consultants before making agreements with other parties.