TeamLab is suing a Los Angeles museum for allegedly copying its Instagram-friendly light installations for its own exhibit

When teamLab, the Japanese art collective known for creating 360-degree interactive software environments, opened a museum in Tokyo in 2018, it drew more visitors in its first year than the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

But popularity can be a double-edged sword. The success of teamLab installations and other Instagram-friendly offerings, such as Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Rooms” and Color Factory, have inspired multitudes of imitators.

Now, teamLab claims that a museum in Los Angeles, the Museum of the Space of Dreams (MODS), has gone too far, violating its copyright and misleading consumers into thinking it’s associated with the Japanese collective.

For the past two years, teamLab has been waging a quiet legal battle against the museum, founded by the US subsidiary of a Beijing tech company called Dahooo, which also produces light shows, 3D maps and installations for shopping malls.

ANLawyers for teamLab and MODS declined to comment on the proceedings. But in court documents, the Los Angeles company claims that teamLab has failed to make a convincing case that its interactive digital installations can be copyrighted.

In the coming months, the decisions are likely to set key precedents in the realm of intellectual property law and the big business of immersive art.

Can you copyright that?

TeamLab, which was established in 2001 and is now represented by mega-gallery Pace, said fans alerted them to uncanny similarities between their facility shortly after MODS launched in 2018. Entry to MODS costs $32.50; tickets to the teamLab museum in Tokyo are just over $25.

MODS now operates locations in Beverly Hills, Los Vegas, and Hollywood. In 2020, Justin Bieber filmed the music video for his song “Intentions” at the Los Angeles attraction. (Bieber’s team took the video offline after teamLab attorneys contacted him about the ongoing lawsuit.)

Image via Pacer

side by side images by teamLab Limits left and mods seasonal dream On the right. Image via Pacer

TeamLab zeroed in on two of his own works that he says have striking similarities to those on display at MODS: Limits (2017), exhibited for the first time at Pace London, and Glass (2015).

TeamLab argues that MODS works appropriate their own “protectable expression”, including: “the use of multicolored flowers flowing across the floor, streams of light/water cascading down the wall and onto the floor, and the interactivity of the work that responds to the needs of the user”. proximity to the exhibition. Both works also contain artwork that flanks both sides of the waterfall and gives the appearance of outer space or stars.”

MODS acknowledged that it had posted images of teamLab installations on his own social media accounts, but denied that he intended to defraud or mislead consumers.

The Japanese art collective won an incremental victory last month when a court agreed with his claim that messages between Dahooo CEO Charles Chang and the social media consultants tasked with posting the teamLab images were inappropriately destroyed.. Dahooo representatives claim that messages on platforms such as Telegram and WeChat self-destructed or were deleted after certain employees left their posts.

the battle continues

In the new presentations made this week, MODS came to light. The museum maintained that teamLab has no copyright registrations in the United States and therefore has no grounds to sue.

Furthermore, he stated, even if teamLab had registered his copyright, elements allegedly copied “either are not original to teamLab, cannot be protected, or both”. (TeamLab, a Japanese company, says it has the right to sue in the US because both countries are party to the same international convention that protects copyrights in works of art.)

MODS also raised the question of whether an ever-changing piece of art can be fixed enough to be copyrighted. laboratory equipment Limitsmods said, it has “a significant interactive aspect that changes the work each time a viewer walks through it”, making it “always transformative”. Additionally, the museum stated, many artists use mirrors and LED lights to create installations, including Yayoi Kusama, who is mentioned as an inspiration on the MODS website, as well as Erwin Redl.

This is not the first time that teamLab has filed a lawsuit to enforce its copyright. In December, the collective won a case against a Chinese company that used the name teamLab to promote an immersive art installation.

Both MODS and teamLab petitioned the court for summary judgment in early April, with supporting filings made on April 25. A hearing on those requests is scheduled for June 10. If no trial is issued and the parties do not reach an agreement, the case will go to trial in August.

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