Media and Advertising

Selling "Stephen Chow" on eBay

The voice behind the star.

Stephen Chow is arguably the most popular star in China. His particular combination of physical comedy, nonsensical dialogue, and lately, special effects, is a huge draw.

But when mainland audiences listen to his rapid-fire wordplay, his drawn-out laughter, or those classic romantic lines, "I once let true love slip away from me...," the voice they hear is not that of Chow, but rather that of his Mandarin voice actor, Shi Banyu.

Shi, who can be heard voicing the part of the comic sidekick in many Hong Kong movies (see Initial D for the latest example), is still most closely identified with Chow. And he's taking advantage of this association by offering "Stephen Chow" for auction on eBay, with a starting bid of 1 yuan.

The winners of each of the ten auctions (the highest bid is up to 1550 yuan at the time of this writing) will be given the opportunity to have Shi call up anyone they wish and speak for two minutes. Wouldn't your loved one just die if they picked up the phone and heard Stephen Chow on the other end?

Shi's not in this for profit, despite forum rumors that he's been driven to this because Chow wants to record his own Mandarin vocals. Instead, he says that it's all for the fans - he came up with the idea after he saw a fan break down in tears when she couldn't get in to the premiere of Kung-fu Hustle. He's donating 50% of the take to a school for the deaf in Beijing.

The auction raises some interesting IP issues. As far as mainland audiences are concerned, Shi is Stephen Chow when he opens his mouth, but is he allowed to trade on the superstar's name? Who owns the rights to the movie dialogue that the winners will undoubtedly have him recite? And while Shi presents a signed "certificate of authenticity" on the auction page, what's to prevent imitators from selling impressions under false pretenses?

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