Copyright case

Dean Lachiusa deanlach at
Sat Jul 15 17:36:44 EDT 2006

Dear Aaron and others concerned about copyright and public domain films,

I've been reading your emails regarding the issue of public domain films in Japan, and I too have had a difficult time getting solid information regarding particular titles.
I tried to contact Kadokawa Herald Pictures, Inc. at info-licensing at regarding the license of two titles released in Japan by Daiei, and later released in the USA by American International Pictures (AIP.)  I'm not sure if I will get an answer, and like Aaron alluded to in a previous email, I don't think that I will get results that will be helpful.

Perhaps you can advise me to take another route?  I was thinking that I should continue to (attempt) to find the AIP content holders/copyright-owners, that is, if there is such a contact.  

Problem is, according to Internet scuttlebug, these titles are public domain -- but I have no way to verify if this is a legitimate claim.  And companies like RetroMedia and Alpha Video are selling DVD's, but this only means that they are doing this (perhaps) without the copyright owners knowledge.

Oh yes, if you're interested in the titles that I am researching, here is the info:
 Gamera vs Monster X  aka: Gamera tai Daimaju Jaiga (1970) 
 War of the Monsters  aka Daikaij kessen  Gamera tai
 Barugon (1966)
 Please feel free to share this message with those that may
 Kind Regards,
 Dean Lachiusa, email:   deanlach at

Aaron Gerow <gerowaaron at> wrote: > If this is true then where are all the Japanese silent
> cinema download sites?

As Aidan said, there is probably just not enough interest around to 
support such sites. It is not a question of time, because it was clear 
to anyone that films made before 1952 were public domain even before 
the 2004 amendment to the Copyright Law. This court case only confirms 
that the amendment extending copyright applied only to films whose 
copyright had not expired, and that copyright had expired for films 
made in 1953.

There is also the problem of availability. While 16mm prints of old US 
films are floating all over the place, that is not the case in Japan. 
Not only did few films survive, but few of these have been made 
available on VHS and DVD, let alone 16mm. I also suspect that just 
because pre-1952 films are public domain, that doesn't mean you can 
just go out and buy the new DVD of Oshidori utagassen and copy it for 
sale (the version that includes the authoring, menus, etc. can be 
copyrighted separately). You can do it if you have a film print, 
however, which is what Matsuda Eigasha does with the old films in its 
collection. I once talked with them about whether Shochiku ever 
complained that they were selling a VHS of I Was Born But even though 
Shochiku was as well. They said no, but given how delicate these things 
can be, they did tell Shochiku before hand what they were doing.

This is probably another reason why this doesn't happen much: Japanese 
companies can be obnoxious about asserting their rights even when they 
don't have them. It was kind of sad reading the comments of someone 
from KineJun in the Mainichi article about this copyright case: he was 
falling all over himself saying how bad a decision it was because, he 
says, it will prevent companies from producing good DVDs of films (by 
the same logic, public domain should be eliminated all together). The 
industry position seems to be that protecting their rights protects 
those of everyone.

Thus while the Film Center should do what the Library of Congress is 
doing, and make available some of its early film collection for 
internet download, I suspect they will never do it because they don't 
want to ruffle any feathers in the industry. But who knows?

Aaron Gerow
KineJapan owner

Assistant Professor
Film Studies Program/East Asian Languages and Literatures
Yale University

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