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  • Apr 28, 2021

American Artist's Estate Wins Copyright Case in Indonesia

Photos of (left) CHRIS BURDEN

An Indonesian court has ruled that a Bandung theme park and its owner infringed on the copyright of the late American artist Chris Burden by replicating his installation comprising rows of vintage street lamps, Urban Light (2008). The court ordered the theme park to destroy its imitation attraction, known as “Love Light,” and to issue a public apology to the artist’s estate.

Since its opening in February 2018, the theme park Rabbit Town has exhibited “Love Light,” which featured rows of old-fashioned-looking street lamps, just as in Burden’s iconic installation Urban Light, which is located on the campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Visitors were charged admission to visit the attraction in what is billed as a “selfie destination.”

The Indonesian Commercial Court at the Central Jakarta District Court found that the defendant had copied and modified Urban Light without permission from the Chris Burden Estate, and that the defendant had a previous knowledge of Urban Light, which were the two determining factors to prove a copyright infringement under Indonesian law. According to the Chris Burden Estate, which released details of the decision on April 26, the case marks a rare instance in Indonesia where an overseas artist’s rights have been recognized by the legal system.

Yayoi Shionoiri, the executive director of the Chris Burden Estate, said in a statement sent to ArtAsiaPacific: “This is a landmark case for the Indonesian court system, and a win for all artists globally. We believe this decision sets a precedent that artist rights can be protected internationally through the application of the copyright framework.”

The Rabbit Town theme park also features the “Patrico Sticker Room,” which resembles room-sized installations of colorful polka dots by Yayoi Kusama, and has been widely criticized in the local and international press for its opportunism in a city known for its creative industries. Its owner, hotel magnate Henry Husada, had previously defended his theme park, claiming that he loves stickers and street lamps, though the pictures of himself and his daughters taken at LACMA’s Urban Light were presented as photographic evidence in the trial. Since the ruling, Rabbit Town has continued to promote “Love Light” on its social-media accounts.

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