Tokyo District Court Denies Copyright Infringement for Illustrations Referencing Photographs


In a verdict rendered by the Tokyo District Court, a case involving a plaintiff accusing a defendant of tort-based damages stemmed from the unauthorized use and sale of photographic materials as illustrations for the defendant's own works.
The plaintiff argued that this action infringed upon their copyrights, which included rights of reproduction, adaptation, and assignment. 

Upon examining the specific illustration in question, which was a black-and-white depiction of a person holding a coffee cup, the court found that while there were some similarities to the original photographic material, there were key differences. 

Notably, the illustration lacked essential expressive elements present in the photograph, such as the relationship between the subject and light, color combinations, and background contrast. 

As a result, the court ruled in favor of the defendant, dismissing the claims of copyright infringement and the infringement of the right of transfer. This ruling provides valuable guidance in determining the threshold for copyright infringement in cases involving derivative works based on photographs.




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