OSAKA — The Osaka High Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling ordering the publisher of a weekly magazine to pay damages to a woman suspected of murdering four people in 1998 by lacing curry with arsenic, for violating her portrait rights.
Tokyo-based Shinchosha Ltd. was ordered by the Osaka District Court in February to pay 6.6 million yen in damages to Masumi Hayashi, 41, for using a photograph and drawing of her without permission. However, in Thursday’s ruling, the high court reduced the compensation amount to 4.4 million yen.
On May 26, 1999, Shinchosha published a photo of Hayashi taken during a court session, in which she was shown with a rope tied around her waist, in its weekly magazine Focus.
The move prompted Hayashi to file a damages suit demanding some 22 million yen and a published apology. In August 1999, the magazine published a drawing of her in court, with a headline that read, “What about an illustration?” The magazine has since suspended publication.
On Thursday, Judge Hiromitsu Ogita agreed with the lower court ruling that even an illustration — if it can easily be understood who it is depicting — should be covered by portrait rights.
The article as a whole “was clearly meant to ridicule (Hayashi) and cannot be recognized as serving the public interest,” Ogita said.
The court also ruled that the photograph was not taken with the court’s permission and as such could not be recognized as viable means of journalism.
The compensation was cut because the high court ruled that the illustration should carry the same weight as the photo.
The district court had said the drawing was more malicious than the photo and awarded double the amount of damages.
Hayashi is accused of killing four people and sickening dozens of others during a summer festival in the city of Wakayama in July 1998.
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