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Retweeting photo without OK violates owner's rights: Japan Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO -- Retweeting a copyrighted photo that was posted without permission infringes on the rights of the photographer, Japan's Supreme Court ruled on July 21.

The verdict came as the top court's Third Petty Bench dismissed an appeal by Twitter Inc. and upheld a lower court ruling ordering the firm to disclose the email addresses of users who retweeted posts containing a picture taken by the complainant, a photographer.

The photographer, who resides in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, was demanding that Twitter reveal information on those behind the retweets of the posts containing his photo that appeared online without his consent, so he could identify the individuals. The Intellectual Property High Court had ordered in an April 2018 ruling that the company disclose the users' email addresses.

The photographer had originally posted a picture of lilies of the valley on his website. Between 2014 and 2015, two unidentified individuals posted tweets containing the photo without his permission, and these were then retweeted by another three people. The photo was cropped so the copyright notice that originally accompanied the photo could not be seen.

The plaintiff filed suit in March 2015. At issue in the Supreme Court hearings was whether the act of retweeting his photo constituted a moral rights violation.

(Japanese original by Jintaro Chikamatsu, City News Department)

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