In a case that may set a legal precedent, Tokyo District Court ordered Kodansha Publishing to pay the producers of Isao Morimoto's Ichigensan, a film about a cross-cultural love affair set in Kyoto, $46,290 (Y5.6m) for copyright violations.
Shukan Gendai, a weekly tabloid magazine published by Kodansha, ran nude shots of Ichigensan star Honami Suzuki in its October 9, 1999 issue that were apparently taken at a screening of the film at the Kyoto Film Festival, without the permission of the producers. In his ruling judge Ryoichi Mimura said that the images "were published with the intent of stimulating readers' prurient interest and heightening their desire to buy and thus cannot be considered an appropriate journalistic activity."
Based on a novel by David Zoppetti, Ichigensan features Suzuki as a young blind woman living a sheltered life in Kyoto who falls in love with her Swiss tutor, played by Edward Atterton. A top star with a long string of TV and film credits, Suzuki had never appeared in a nude scene prior to Ichigensan, creating the media interest that led to the photo spread in Shukan Gendai.
Though the pirating of videos, DVDs and other package media is relatively rare in Japan, compared to the rest of Asia, media competition is fierce and the stalking of celebrities for scandalous photos and stories is common.