Artist wins copyright claim over phone booth full of goldfish in Japan

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An artist on Thursday won a claim for damages for claiming that an association of merchants in western Japan had copied one of his works of art featuring a telephone booth filled with water and goldfish.

Reversing a lower court ruling, the Osaka High Court ordered the association to compensate Nobuki Yamamoto, a 64-year-old contemporary artist, with 550,000 yen ($ 5,200) for copyright infringement and to destroy a similar facility in a town known for its goldfish farms. .

The phone booth has been installed in a shopping street in Yamatokoriyama town, Nara prefecture, known for growing goldfish, for four years starting in 2014.

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

In rendering the ruling, presiding judge Yozo Yamada said the association’s action infringed the artist’s copyright.

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

“My request has been fully recognized,” Yamamoto said at a press conference following the court ruling.

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The association claimed that putting goldfish in a phone booth is “just an idea” and is not subject to copyright protection.

After the decision, the group said it would consider appealing.

In July of last year, the Nara District Court dismissed the plagiarism complaint of Yamamoto, from Iwaki, in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan.

The district court said that telephone booths “have receivers floating in the water as a common feature, but other than that they are different in terms of the color of their roofs and other things.

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He sued for damages for 3.3million yen in September 2018 and argued that the one displayed on the street had a similar exterior to his creation and used the same air bubble generation system using the telephone receiver.

The association withdrew its version from the shopping street in April 2018 before Yamamoto took legal action.

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