TOKYO — The Tokyo District Court ruled Thursday that two Tokyo-based distribs of Charlie Chaplin DVDs were in violation of his copyrights.
Judge Misao Shimizu ordered the two defendants to pay the copyright holder, Roy Export, ¥10.5 million ($90,300), saying the copyrights extended to 38 years after the death of the original rights holder.
Since Chaplin died in 1977, the rights extend to the year 2015. Among the nine Chaplin pics named in the suit were “The Great Dictator,” “Modern Times” and “The Gold Rush.”
Countering the defendants’ claim that the Chaplin pics were the work of many people and that it was therefore unfair to assign the copyright to Chaplin alone, Shimizu said that “as producer, director and composer, Chaplin was clearly the copyright holder to these films.”
According to Japan newly revised Copyright Law, copyrights to all pics released prior to 1970 are protected for 70 years. This means that Chaplin’s “Monsieur Verdoux” is protected until 2017 and “Limelight” until 2022. Pics in which the copyright holder is judged to be the prime creative force are protected for at least 38 years after the holder’s death.
Liechtenstein-based Roy Export had asked $810,344 in compensation, as well as a halt to the DVD sales. With the court’s decision behind it, Roy plans to stop all unauthorized sales of Chaplin DVDs in Japan.