Temple jigsaw lawsuit raises puzzling issue of image control
Art Law

Temple jigsaw lawsuit raises puzzling issue of image control

A jigsaw puzzle using an image of Byodoin temple’s Phoenix Hall (Yasukazu Akada) A temple in the ancient capital has been broken up into 300 pieces–puzzle pieces, that is–and the real temple is having a fit. Byodoin temple filed a lawsuit with the Kyoto District Court against a toymaker for marketing a jigsaw puzzle based on the temple’s famed Phoenix Hall. As the suit was filed in March, however, the hall in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, is already in the public domain, meaning that Byodoin does not have a copyright on the structure. The move is among many by Japanese temples and museums prohibiting third parties from using images of artworks they own. However, an expert pointed out that the common practice has little basis in law. ‘DAMAGED’ SOCIAL REPUTATION According to a written complaint and other documents, Yanoman Corp. in Tokyo released a 300-piece jigsaw puzzle using an image of Phoenix Hall taken by a professional photographer with the moon at night. Byodoin argues that it specifies in its pamphlet that “commercial use of snapped photos is prohibited” and the jigsaw puzzle constitutes a violation of the rule. It also insists the product could make people mistakenly believe that […]

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