NARA--Merchants and others in Yamato-Koriyama are off the hook in a lawsuit filed by an artist who argued that their "phone booth with goldfish" tourist attraction violated his copyright.

The Nara District Court here on July 11 dismissed the claim by artist Nobuki Yamamoto over the phone booth aquarium, installed in the Nara Prefecture city famed as a major producer of the ornamental fish.

Yamamoto sought 3.3 million yen ($30,555) in compensation from the cooperative union of merchants and other entities in Yamato-Koriyama that put up the goldfish telephone booth on a city street.

But the court rejected the artist's claim by concluding the plaintiff’s work is not subject to the Copyright Law.

“Putting goldfish inside and letting them swim around by likening an item like a telephone booth to an aquarium is nothing but an idea and not an expression,” the court said.

According to the ruling, Yamamoto, who is based in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, had created an artwork by around December 2000 in which he put goldfish in a tank replicating a telephone booth.

The union and other entities installed the goldfish telephone booth in Yamato-Koriyama in 2014.

Yamamoto, 63, expressed disappointment in the court's decision and said he plans to file an appeal.

“I did not expect this,” he said. “The ruling was tantamount to denying my work. I am full of anxiety and disappointment.”

The local groups filled a telephone booth that became unusable with water and placed dozens of goldfish in it as a part of efforts to attract visitors to the city.

They maintained that the idea or expression of putting goldfish inside an object is “not creative” and “anyone can come up with” the idea.