A “selfie tourism” spot in the West Java capital of Bandung is being sued over an art installation that is unavoidably a dead ringer to an iconic installation in Los Angeles.
In a press release received by Coconuts, the estate of late artist Chris Burden has appointed attorneys from Ivan Almaida Baely & Firmansyah (IABF) Law Firm in Indonesia to sue Bandung-based recreation spot Rabbit Town — which describes itself as a “selfie tourism” draw — due to allegations that it ripped off an important work by the artist.
Burden is known as the artist behind Urban Light, a large-scale assemblage sculpture composed of 202 street lights arranged in a grid. The installation, located right outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), was created in 2008.
Rabbit Town, which opened to the public in early 2018, has Love Light, which looks like an exact copy of Burden’s Urban Light. Other installations at Rabbit Town include a sticker room similar to that by celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and a replica of a frozen delights-inspired installation at the Museum of Ice Cream in LA.
Rabbit Town has not removed any of the installations despite the plagiarism controversy surrounding the so-called selfie haven.
The Chris Burden Estate is seeking compensation for material and immaterial losses created by Love Light, as well as demanding that Rabbit Town take down the installation and issue a public apology.
“The Estate is incredibly disappointed. We know the amount of artistic creativity, time, energy, and expense spent to create Urban Light. Rabbit Town has never asked for permission to use the copyright of Chris Burden, and his rights as an artist need to be protected,” Yayoi Shionoiri, the Executive Director of the Chris Burden Estate, said.
The first hearing for the case is scheduled for tomorrow morning at the Central Jakarta District Court.
While this may look like an open-and-shut case, copyright laws in Indonesia are never that straightforward, especially when concerning intellectual rights from abroad. In Indonesia, it’s actually pretty well-established at this point that being the creator of an intellectual property or brand, even a globally recognized one that’s been in use for decades, means approximately jack squat.
As long as somebody registers the brand/logo/character in Indonesia before the original owner, no matter how well known it is, the Indonesian legal system is likely to side with the former. Just ask Superman.