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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Asian Beauty:Miwako.K | Supreme Court rules for 'curry poisoner' in libel case

The Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a 2002 ruling by the Osaka High Court that ordered publishing firm Shinchosha Co., a representative director and the former editor of weekly magazine Focus to pay 4.4 million yen in compensation to Masumi Hayashi, who was sentenced to death for murdering four people and sickening 63 others with poisoned curry in Wakayama in 1998.
However, the publisher and the others have been ordered to pay 2.2 million yen in compensation after the Supreme Court also ruled that a photograph of Hayashi they published had infringed on her reputation and emotional well-being.
The high court originally ruled against the publisher and others after they published a photograph of Hayashi wearing handcuffs and a rope around her waist and three illustrations of her in court that Hayashi, 44, claimed had infringed on her portrait rights.
In the Supreme Court ruling, presiding Justice Niro Shimada said the photograph was illegal, but that the illustrations--except for one also depicting a handcuffed Hayashi with a rope around her waist--were not inappropriate.
The Supreme Court ruled that the publisher and the others should pay her 2.2 million yen in compensation for publishing the photograph.
He then dismissed the high court's ruling and remanded the case concerning the illegal illustration to the lower court so it could review the compensation amount.
This is the first time the Supreme Court has ruled on the infringement of portrait rights.
In his ruling, Shimada said, "The defendant is responsible for paying compensation if the portrait exceeds the permission given by the person pictured after his or her social status and activities and the place, purpose or necessity of taking the photograph are taken into account."
The sneak shot of Hayashi taken at the Wakayama District Court in November 1998 appeared in Focus's May 26, 1999 issue.
After Hayashi filed the damages suit, the Aug. 25, 1999 issue of the magazine carried three illustrations under the title of "To Masumi Hayashi, who filed a suit against the magazine. What [reaction] do you have to these illustrations?"
Shimada said it was difficult to understand why the magazine found it necessary to take a photograph of Hayashi handcuffed and with a rope around her waist. He also mentioned the illegal way in which the photo was taken.


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