There’s no dispute over the copyright of the East Van cross at Sixth Avenue and Clark, according to Vancouver artist Ken Lum, who based the art piece on a symbol that he said has been around for decades.
The Vancouver Sun reported today (July 12) that Rocco Dipopolo, who they say is a former Hells Angel prospect, approached a Commercial Drive business owner who was displaying photos of the East Van cross, claiming he copyrighted the symbol.
Lum said the City of Vancouver owns the trademark on the neon cross design, which is officially titled Monument for East Vancouver.
“I don’t think this is much of a dispute,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.
“The city owns that particular trademark, so he doesn’t have it.”
The artist said he has not been contacted directly by Dipopolo.
Dipopolo told the Sun that the cross dates back to the early 1990s, when it was used by a club that he was a member of.
But Lum said according to some Vancouver residents he has spoken to, the cross dates back to at least the late 1940s, meaning the symbol “well precedes” its adoption by any East Van gang.
“You talk to a lot of people, they’ll remember that symbol as being around a long time—a lot longer than the 1990s,” he said.
Lum noted he also modified the original symbol, by rounding the corners of the cross. While he said there have been many variations on the cross over the years, it has almost always featured hard corners.
He said it’s the modified version that has been copyrighted by the city.
“It now belongs to the City of Vancouver, which I think is proper,” he said.
“It’s part of the history of the city. So I don’t think anyone should be able to own that sign, not even myself.”
Lum remembers seeing the symbol as a child in East Vancouver. The artist lived in Strathcona until he was seven years old, and then moved to the Knight and Kingsway area. He recalls seeing it frequently around East Vancouver in the 60s, and occasionally in the 70s.
“It was always a marker of East Van,” he said.
“It was never formalized as a physical form, and that’s what makes it so interesting was that it had this kind of organic life you might say of appearing and then re-appearing over the decades.”
“It just had this kind of staying power,” he added.