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Chinese actor makes $1.1 million after suing companies for using his ‘lying’ meme

A photo of Chinese actor Ge You lying on a sofa playing a lazy deadbeat in the 1993 sitcom “I Love My Family” became a meme for China’s “lying flat” movement.

The phrase was named one of the top ten internet culture phrases of the year by Chinese magazine Yaowen Jiaozi, and it has become so famous that it is now normally used to describe someone slouching on a sofa.

The “lying flat” movement promotes doing the bare minimum to get by rather than working hard. It got its start in 2021 when a post on Baidu, China’s own social networking site, went viral on the platform. A manifesto of renunciation, the post entitled “Lying Flat Is Justice” shared the author’s lessons from two years of joblessness.

The term is now widely regarded to mean “taking a break from relentless work,” and is still an active idea within a generation that’s feeling the increasing pressure to work harder (even harder than their peers).

Because Ge You’s photo went viral in 2016, hundreds of businesses have utilized it without his permission. According to Chinese media reports, Ge You has achieved a staggering 99.6 percent win rate against companies after successfully suing 542 out of 544 companies.

Although the actor is getting less than $50 compensation in some instances, he has made an accumulative $1.1 million from the lawsuits.

Ge You’s case is also a reflection of the blurring of copyright laws in the age of memes, where it’s now so easy to lift images to meme-ify, and sometimes even use for commercial purposes, without proper attribution or compensation to the subject or rightful owner.


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