Artist wins copyright claim over goldfish-filled phone booth in Japan

Japan Times -- Jan 15
An artist won a damages suit Thursday over a claim that a merchants’ association in western Japan copied one of his artworks featuring a telephone booth filled with water and goldfish.

Overturning a lower court ruling, the Osaka High Court ordered the association to compensate Nobuki Yamamoto, a 64-year-old contemporary artist, with Y550,000 ($5,200) for the copyright infringement and destroy a similar installation in a city known for its goldfish farms.

The phone booth was installed at a shopping street in the city of Yamatokoriyama, Nara Prefecture, which is known for the cultivation of goldfish, for four years from 2014.

The art piece, created to highlight environmental issues including water pollution, had been displayed in different parts of Japan from 2000, and featured in television and magazines, according to the ruling and other sources.

In handing down the ruling, Presiding Judge Yozo Yamada said the association’s action infringed on the artist’s copyright.

While Yamamoto’s work displayed creativity, the association’s version could not be seen as a product of creative thinking but rather a “copy” of it, the ruling said.

- Japan Times