Japan Nixes Celeb Pic Web Sales

TOKYO – In a move mirroring recent U.S. court actions designed to curtail the unauthorized marketing of celebrity images, a Japanese court has ordered a website operator to end sales of unlicensed celebrity photographs.

The unnamed website operator is alleged to have set up a website last summer called IDOL! AUCTIONS, where he is charged with displaying photographs of celebrities taken without their permission at various concert halls and other venues, and then offering them for sale online.

Representing six major talent agencies, 17 plaintiffs including Japanese celebrities Hideaki Takizawa, Kyoko Fukada and Yukie Nakama, came together to file a court claim seeking a provisional injunction to stop the sale of these pictures, and compel the site operator to remove the material from his website.

The plaintiffs initiated their suit in January. On February 1st, the group of celebrities filed a claim seeking a temporary injunction. Three court hearings on the case were held, but the webmaster failed to appear for any of them. On Thursday, the Tokyo District Court granted the group its injunction.

An attorney for the plaintiffs stated that while there have been several cases where physical shops were forced to cease selling unauthorized celebrity related merchandise, Internet sales outlets are rarely targeted.

"We sent several warnings to the man by e-mail, but he acted badly, sending back replies saying, 'Other people are doing it too,' so we decided to take legal action," a representative of the group of celebrities said. "From now on we also want to strictly deal with violations of portrait rights that damage the image of celebrities."

Several high profile court cases over "unauthorized" celebrity sex tapes have taken place in the United States, which has a long history of upholding publicity rights and penalizing unauthorized purveyors of even mild celebrity fare.