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Upcoming BCI Ultraman DVD is pretty suspicious . . .


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#1 of 173 OFFLINE   John Pannozzi

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Posted February 08 2006 - 09:23 AM

From http://forums.toonzo...ad.php?t=159518


Quote:
Originally Posted by ryuuseipro
(Edited, for some friends want their names removed so no harm is done)



Guys, I am a big Ultra-fan, but this is too good to be true. The first 6 Ultra Series are currently in some major legal entanglements, as I'll discuss below.



Here are the facts . . .





TSUBURAYA PRODUCTIONS VS. CHAIYO PRODUCTIONS

Author: Bob Johnson


There has been much Internet buzz recently based on a court case going on both in Japan and Thailand. There have also been many reports in the Thai press. The case concerns something that is very important to many fans around the world, the fate of one of Japan's most recognizable icons, Ultraman.


On one side is Tsuburaya Productions, the company that created Ultraman and, for almost forty years, has produced television series and movies based on the character. The opposition is Thai filmmaker/businessman Sompote Saenguduenchai, owner of Chaiyo Productions, which also refers to itself as "Tsuburaya Chaiyo". Both sides have their own versions of the story and the outcome of the courts' decision so far. Sampote Thianthong of Pro Link of Thailand has been appointed Tsuburaya Productions' official agent and has been explaining the story to the Thai media for some time now.


The story began back in 1996, literally weeks after the death of Tsuburaya Productions' then president, Noboru Tsuburaya. Mr. Sompote approached Noboru's son Kazuo Tsuburaya, who had just been named CEO of the Tokyo-based company. Mr. Sompote presented him with a letter, allegedly issued and signed by his father in 1976, granting Mr. Sompote the international copyright to all Ultraman characters from the series ULTRA Q through ULTRAMAN TARO and another character, JUMBORG ACE.


When he presented this contract to Tsuburaya Productions in 1996, TPC considered it a forgery. In the very first line of the document, Tsuburaya Productions Co, ltd. is listed as "Tsuburaya prod. and Enterprise", a name it has never done business under. The fact that "productions" was abbreviated and rendered with a lower case "p", was a mistake that no one at Tsuburaya Productions would have let a document go out with. As the contract went on, some of the shows that it listed were under the wrong titles. ULTRA Q is listed as "Ultraman 1: Ultra Q" and ULTRA SEVEN is called "Ultraman Seven".


One question that immediately comes to mind is why Mr. Sompote waited over twenty years to come forth with his claim. There were ads in Variety and other media and industry publications by Tsuburaya attempting to sell these series to overseas markets. Not to mention the fact that some of these series also were running in overseas markets (including ULTRAMAN and ULTRA SEVEN in the US) during this time. Why didn't Mr. Sompote complain about violations of his rights when these were running? Obviously, in 1996, the one person who could have disputed his claims was deceased and unable to defend his company's rights.


Mr. Sompote also claims to have played a major part in the creation of Ultraman. As proof, he has presented a photo of himself showing Eiji Tsuburaya a book of photos of various Buddha shrines that he maintains look like Ultraman. However, there is no other evidence to support this claim. Mr. Sompote was a film student living in Japan and visited Eiji Tsuburaya's at Toho Studios. This was apparently the extent of their relationship.


Tsuburaya Productions dismissed the contract, but out of respect for its founder Eiji Tsuburaya's friendship with Mr. Sompote, they granted him merchandising rights for Thailand and five other Asian countries. He accepted this, but claimed that Tsuburaya Productions had damaged his reputation in Thailand by disputing his contract. He asked the company to issue a letter to clear his name. He specifically stated that this letter must contain references to his alleged contract because he had already told his business associates about it. TPC reluctantly agreed and issued the letter under the intent that it would only be used in Thai business circles. The letter was not intended to be a binding legal document or to validate Sompote's "contract". This letter is now being used as evidence to support his claims that the original contract was valid.


Tsuburaya has brought the case to court. The first was in the Thai Intellectual Property and International Trade (IPIT) court. There were two more court cases at the Tokyo District Court and Tokyo High Court. All three courts ruled that TPC retained the copyright to Ultraman, the character they created. However, they ruled that Mr. Somopote would retain merchandising rights outside of Japan. Tsuburaya is contesting this and the case will be handed over to the Japanese Supreme Court later this year.


At no time was Tsuburaya Productions in a position to lose the copyrights to their characters, nor are they now. If Chaiyo retains their claim to the merchandising and distribution rights to overseas markets, what would this mean to the US, where ULTRAMAN TIGA is now being distributed? Some are wrongly speculating that it might loosen up the rights for the original ULTRAMAN to finally be released here in North America. However, Tsuburaya Productions still holds on to the original materials including negatives, English language soundtrack and all prints of the series, so anything Chaiyo could sell over here would be of dubious quality at best. Tsuburaya could still license the shows in the US, but most likely would avoid doing so until the final judgment is made by the Supreme Court. So, either way, for the time being, the fans lose.


(Originally appeared on Henshin! Online in 2004)


Addendum


Chaiyo's "rights" do not include broadcast, cable/satellite nor home video rights outside of Thailand. Tsuburaya Productions already has many legitimate licensees in around the world, including Asia, which would be affected by Chaiyo being able to lay claim to these shows -- and five years on, companies like MediaLink International are still distributing licensed Ultraman on television, cable and video in Hong Kong, Macau and other territories. Chaiyo has no real right to peddle these series outside of Thailand, and even the licensing and Thai rights were ill gotten.


The picture is not simply limited to Chaiyo and Tsuburaya Productions -- Ultraman has enjoyed great success for decades around the world, and Chaiyo only decided to stake a claim (one of them was that it was they who created Ultraman) after the death of CEO Noboru Tsuburaya. That was the first warning flag...


Tokyo Superior Court denied Chaiyo's claim as creator of Ultraman and all intellectual property rights they were seeking (and forbids them from creating new characters); the court denied Chaiyo's claim to all international copyrights; the court denied Chaiyo's international distribution of the shows in question to cable, television and home video; etc. But, the court did award them complete control of the rights within Thailand and the international rights to ancillary merchandising, excluding Japan.


This is only because the "contract" in question carried Noboru Tsuburaya's Hanko (Japanese signature stamp), which is an antiquated system of signature that can easily be forged -- the document did not have the late Tsuburaya's actual hand-written signature. If this case was tried in US courts, Chaiyo would have lost long ago.


But, the bottom line is that Chaiyo cannot distribute, license, sell or trade television, cable/satellite or home video rights to ULTRA Q, ULTRAMAN, ULTRA SEVEN, RETURN OF ULTRAMAN, ULTRAMAN ACE, ULTRAMAN TARO and JUMBORG ACE, outside of Thailand.


In a nutshell, that is the ruling, according to the Tokyo Superior Court. Unfortunately, because of Chaiyo's international rights to ancillary merchandising, it's possible that Chaiyo would try to block any legitimate release that Tsuburaya Productions would try to license in a territory such as North America. Not that they would win, but it would be another long court case... and would scare away any DVD label; it's a classic case of Catch-22.





Incidentally, Tsuburaya Productions and Chaiyo Productions only officially worked together co-producing two movies in 1974, The 6 Ultra Brothers Vs. The Monster Army (which I saw the Thai version of, BTW, and is the worst Ultraman movie ever) and Jumborg Ace & Giant. That was it!



If you want an idea of how shady Chaiyo is, they asked Toei for permission to do a Kamen (Masked) Rider movie. Toei refused, so Chaiyo went behind their backs and produced one anyway (Hanuman and the 5 Riders, which was absolutely awful, even worse than The 6 Ultra Brothers Vs. the Monster Army!). Tsuburaya didn't know how unfortunate it would become.



More to the point, close contacts with Tsuburaya Productions including Bob Johnson and Keith Aiken, (who have also followed the court case in the Japanese media), have contacted TPC, who said that they have not licensed the original Ultraman series to any company in the US.



Then, James Ballard of TokyoMonsters.com contacted BCI, who sent back this response:



Dear Mr. Ballard,


I understand and appreciate your opinion regarding the situation.


We did license the title through someone dealing with Chaiyo directly. We went to Tsuburaya first. They told our agent that they did not have rights for the U.S. to grant us and that is how our agent ended up finding Chaiyo. Many people are misinformed about the rights. We have read the court documents from Japan and it shows that Chaiyo does indeed have the U.S. home video and merchandising rights.


We would have preferred working with Tsuburaya and that is who we approached first. It would certainly make creating the DVDs easier as we’d have a lot more access to materials.


I hope you will reconsider your position of not supporting the release. It’s certainly better than all the people that sell bootlegs on the internet. This is the official U.S. release.


You might not agree with the company that won the rights but according to court records, they do own the rights. It is an unfortunate situation.


I am a long time fan of the show and I grew up watching it. So, I wanted to release one of my favorite shows on DVD and we went through a lot of work to find it. We are a public company and would not do anything that would jeopardize our parent company. We did all the research to insure that we would be releasing the legal version of the show.


Best regards,

Cliff MacMillan


Director of Acquisitions


BCI Eclipse





But as I stated above, Tsuburaya has not licensed the original series to anyone! They will not do so until the legal entanglements are cleared and Chaiyo is out of the picture. BCI was most probably eager to hurry up and bring the series here, but their acquisition is just a sham (they dealt with a third-party source involved with Chaiyo, which loves to spin-doctor the whole case in the most outrageous way possible), and they're only going to be dragged into this legal entanglement. If they get in trouble, they'd better NOT blame Tsuburaya, Chaiyo is to blame. They are determined to try to put Tsuburaya out of business and steal Ultraman from them.



I hope Tsuburaya is able to foil this DVD release. Because if it does come out, I will NOT buy it. Period. I will not buy any Ultra items connected with Chaiyo.



I'm sorry, but I just can't let this pass. I just wanted to let you all know about this, because I have a great amount of respect for the Tsuburaya family (Eiji's classic work at Toho goes without saying), and they have produced more than 40 years worth of quality entertainment. Their recent Ultra Series (Ultraman Nexus and the current Ultraman Max) and movies (Ultraman the Next) are top-notch sci-fi/superhero/monster FX entertainment (and Panasonic's Region 2 DVD releases of the classic Ultra Series are of mind-blowing quality!). But Tsuburaya can't bring them here because of these legal entanglements (and, as a result, they hold on to all the original materials). I don't want Chaiyo to take their legacy away from them in the most unfair way possible.

Warners: Please release the rest of Taz-Mania, Duck Dodgers, Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, Dexter's Lab, Courage the Cowardly Dog, all of Road Rovers, Histeria, Cow & Chicken, Saturday Pants, Pinky Elmyra & The Brain, Tiny Toons Night Ghoulery & Spring Break specials, Wakko's Wish and a complete uncut Tex Avery set (with correct colors and NO DVNR)

#2 of 173 OFFLINE   Gord Lacey

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Posted February 08 2006 - 09:56 AM

And according to BCI they've gone about obtaining the proper licenses to release the material.

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#3 of 173 OFFLINE   John Pannozzi

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Posted February 08 2006 - 05:02 PM

RE:Gord: Carefully read what I posted again.
Warners: Please release the rest of Taz-Mania, Duck Dodgers, Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, Dexter's Lab, Courage the Cowardly Dog, all of Road Rovers, Histeria, Cow & Chicken, Saturday Pants, Pinky Elmyra & The Brain, Tiny Toons Night Ghoulery & Spring Break specials, Wakko's Wish and a complete uncut Tex Avery set (with correct colors and NO DVNR)

#4 of 173 OFFLINE   John Cassidy

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Posted February 08 2006 - 08:52 PM

Quote:
And according to BCI they've gone about obtaining the proper licenses to release the material.

Gord, all sources close to Tsuburaya Productions say that they have neither been contacted by BCI, nor have they licensed the show to anyone. BCI has contacted a third party source connected with Chaiyo (which is determined to damage Tsuburaya's overseas business, and ultimately, the company itself).

Tsuburaya has the rights to the show, according to the court decision, and still holds on to all original materials for the shows. As I said, they will not license the show until Chaiyo is out of the picture. Refer to the first post.

Bradley Warner from Tsuburaya's LA office (he is also Tsuburaya's overseas marketing consultant) has been aware of the situation, so we'll have to see what develops . . .

#5 of 173 OFFLINE   Gord Lacey

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Posted February 09 2006 - 04:29 AM

I've read that post many times, and according to BCI they've been over court documents that show Chaiyo has rights in North America and was able to license it to them.

Right now we have comments from people not associated with the deal, and comments from BCI which is involved in it. I'm sorry, but I'd have to believe that BCI knows what they're talking about, and probably has had a few lawyers look over the court documents from Japan.

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#6 of 173 OFFLINE   John Cassidy

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Posted February 09 2006 - 06:07 AM

Quote:
I've read that post many times, and according to BCI they've been over court documents that show Chaiyo has rights in North America and was able to license it to them.

That's BCI's side of the story! You have not even heard Tsuburaya's side of the story. Tsuburaya has said that they have not been contacted by BCI!!! BCI contacted a third party source connected with Chaiyo. You have to believe me on this. I am friends with experts close to Tsuburaya. They include the Henshin! Online crew, Bob Johnson, Keith Aiken and several others, real experts in the tokusatsu fandom community.

Quote:
Right now we have comments from people not associated with the deal, and comments from BCI which is involved in it. I'm sorry, but I'd have to believe that BCI knows what they're talking about, and probably has had a few lawyers look over the court documents from Japan.

Then they're not doing a good job at all. Right now, you're only looking at one company's side of the story, instead of doing any extensive research. Tsuburaya has an LA office, for crying out loud! Bradley Warner is in charge of Tsuburaya's international division, and he is gathering information on this whole situation.

I don't know why you don't want to believe me. Perhaps because you're eager to see ULTRAMAN come on DVD, no matter what. Well, that's cool, except that the company that created it, and actually owns it, is at stake right now, because a Thai company wants to steal it from them, when they don't even have the rights to them. Chaiyo only has the rights to broadcasting and home video rights in Thailand only, as well as supporting merchandise outside Japan, for the first 6 Ultra Series, and the Japanese media has covered this. Most of the Thai news seems to be posting Chaiyo's side of the story, and it's all made up. They even go as far to say that Tsuburaya is having financial difficulties, which was false, as Tsuburaya was still going strong, and still producing new Ultraman shows! You have no idea how shady Chaiyo is.

You'll hear some news sooner or later.

#7 of 173 OFFLINE   Gord Lacey

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Posted February 09 2006 - 05:48 PM

John, I could care less about Ultraman. You should have Bradley Warner come and make a post here, or send me a PM with his information and I'll contact him myself.

I spoke with people at BCI today and they approached Tsuburaya in Japan (not LA) and asked to license the product, but were told that they do not have the US rights to the series.

I'd be more than happy to speak to someone about this. Have you spoken with anyone at BCI yourself?

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#8 of 173 OFFLINE   John Cassidy

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Posted February 10 2006 - 07:12 AM

Quote:
John, I could care less about Ultraman. You should have Bradley Warner come and make a post here, or send me a PM with his information and I'll contact him myself.

I spoke with people at BCI today and they approached Tsuburaya in Japan (not LA) and asked to license the product, but were told that they do not have the US rights to the series.

I'd be more than happy to speak to someone about this. Have you spoken with anyone at BCI yourself?

Gord, please understand. Tsuburaya Productions says that they would never tell anyone that they don't have the home video rights for the US. Additionally, it makes no sense to take one side without listening to the other, so until TPC says something, you're only listening to one side of the argument.

Anyway, for what it's worth, Henshin! Online has conducted an interview with Cliff MacMillan on the DVD release. (You'll have to Google Henshin! Online, as this forum doesn't seem to allow any URL posting, sorry.)

#9 of 173 OFFLINE   John Cassidy

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Posted February 10 2006 - 08:49 AM

BTW, H!O has more info on Tsuburaya, if you want to contact them. They should help you out.

#10 of 173 OFFLINE   Mark Talmadge

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Posted February 10 2006 - 09:05 AM

Here's the interview, guys:

http://www.henshinonline.com

It's on the homepage.

While I'm all geeked up to purchase these releases I think I'll end up boycotting this particular release. I just read that interview and it's upsetting to hear that the original English dubbed track and the original masters of the series, which were switched over to DAT, were returned to Tokyo. This is very distressing that the dubbed track may end up being an inferior copy of the release.

#11 of 173 OFFLINE   Jeffrey Nelson

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Posted February 10 2006 - 09:46 AM

Quote:
Cliff MacMillan: When I got to BCI, I had a friend talk to Tsuburaya about the original ULTRAMAN series. He was told that the US video rights were now with a Thai company. We had a friend in Thailand locate the company and we began talks on acquiring the series.

Henshin!Online: Because of this on-going dispute, what kind of checking into the rights was performed and who was responsible for these procedures?

CM: Well, the litigation between the two companies concerned us. As a public company, we didn't want to acquire something that would end up in further litigation, so we had our lawyers and the sales agent that acquired the title from Chaiyo read all the documents from the courts in Japan.

H!O: Are your lawyers who read these documents located in Los Angeles or Thailand?

CM: Our lawyer is in Los Angeles, and the person who read all the Japanese court documents speaks fluent Japanese.

H!O: How do you feel about Tsuburaya Productions' situation in all of this?

CM: I would much rather be working with Tsuburaya. No doubt about it.

I think our release would be more complete having the creators of the show work with us to create our DVD release. I think it's unfortunate that the creators of the show do not have the rights to their creation, but as a fan of the show, I wanted to see it get a Region 1 release and the people that had the rights were Chaiyo.

If this release hits, I'll buy it. Because if TPC were able to do anything about it, they will have done it by July, which is the tentative release date for the first set, and it won't come out. In which case, I won't buy it. Profound, eh?

#12 of 173 OFFLINE   Gord Lacey

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Posted February 10 2006 - 10:41 AM

John, if I'm giving a phone number to call to speak to someone about this then I'll call them, I'm not going to dig around for it.

What I see right now is a company that says they have the legal right to release a show, and a group of fans that claim they don't. If BCI has the license to release the show on DVD in the US and the fans trying to block the release are wrong, I don't know what action BCI could take against them.

Why hasn't Tsuburaya Productions already contacted BCI if they own the US rights to the series?

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#13 of 173 OFFLINE   Mark Talmadge

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Posted February 10 2006 - 08:49 PM

Gord is right, John. At least give Gord and Dave the resources to get an official statement. Since their site is well known they could very well get an official statement from the company. As far as I'm concerned, if they're releasing a copy of the original series from less-than-mediocre prints I'm definately boycotting the series.

At least, if they're going to release the series they need to hold off until they can get a set of the original masters that TPC has from the original masters and the DAT conversion.

#14 of 173 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted February 12 2006 - 12:01 AM

Later today I will be posting an official BCI press release about the Ultraman set. I'll give you guys the heads-up about that right now, because you'll want to know if it addresses this issue. It doesn't. It's brief, and mainly is saying officially that BCI is releasing this show, and names the month to expect release.

Gord and I are continuing to work with BCI in order to get an official statement in regard to the issue that is discussed in this thread. I mainly wanted you all to know that today's news post is not going to be it, and to please spread the word around about that at any other message boards where it's appropriate. I am thinking that I'm not even going to attempt to address this issue at all in today's news, instead just waiting until we have all the pieces in place to write that up correctly, and separately.

Just wanted to let you all know.
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#15 of 173 OFFLINE   Mark Talmadge

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Posted February 12 2006 - 06:27 AM

Dave, let me be the first to say that it would be appropriate to let everyone know when to expect the set but I wouldn't announce any news past that as it could open up the topic for a lot hot-heads and cuase more problems than it would be worth. The release date would be welcome news but that's where I'd end the news-flash.Posted Image

#16 of 173 OFFLINE   John Cassidy

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Posted February 13 2006 - 09:41 AM

Gord, with all due respect, I'm going to be very firm on this. This was all done behind Tsuburaya's back. And right now, while Tsuburaya is gathering info on this situation (they're being extremely careful with how to handle legal situations), they are very tight-lipped about this. John Pannozzi has already posted their side of the story for me. I rest my case.

Guys, I will not argue any more about this. But if any more news comes up on these releases, and if I'm right, then don't say I didn't warn you.

#17 of 173 OFFLINE   Michael Alden

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Posted February 13 2006 - 11:41 AM

A quick copyright search shows that Ultraman 1966 was never registered for copyright in this country.

Off topic but since the posters in this thread seem to know a lot about mid-60s Japanese shows, which are really the only ones I have any interest in, what is the status of Eighth Man? Gigantor has come out and Astroboy is coming but what about this show from the same era? Who owns it and do the dubbed American versions even still exist?

#18 of 173 OFFLINE   Mark Talmadge

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Posted February 13 2006 - 09:23 PM

Actually, copyright searches don't mean anything. What you want to do is to do a search for whoever has the license for the show as a Region 1 release. Technically, the copyright for the series belongs solely and exclusively to Tsuburaya Productions. While Chaiyo may be claiming rights to the series they may only have licensing rights to the series, NOT copyrights to the series.

Please be aware that when a company creates something they apply for the copyright. Only a single entity may obtain a copyright to something. I've never heard of two entities owning the copyright to a creation such as this. While Tsuburaya and Chaiyo may have co-produced some Ultraman titles together (Dave and Gord, correct me if I'm wrong on this) Tsuburaya retains complete copyright to the series since it was Tsuburaya Productions who created the series not Chaiyo.

Copyright Law is different from Licensing as Chaiyo is claiming distribution rights to the release of the series to DVD which Tsuburaya is disputing.

#19 of 173 OFFLINE   John Cassidy

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Posted February 14 2006 - 06:00 AM

OK, now this I can discuss.

Quote:
Actually, copyright searches don't mean anything. What you want to do is to do a search for whoever has the license for the show as a Region 1 release. Technically, the copyright for the series belongs solely and exclusively to Tsuburaya Productions. While Chaiyo may be claiming rights to the series they may only have licensing rights to the series, NOT copyrights to the series.

Please be aware that when a company creates something they apply for the copyright. Only a single entity may obtain a copyright to something. I've never heard of two entities owning the copyright to a creation such as this. While Tsuburaya and Chaiyo may have co-produced some Ultraman titles together (Dave and Gord, correct me if I'm wrong on this) Tsuburaya retains complete copyright to the series since it was Tsuburaya Productions who created the series not Chaiyo.

Copyright Law is different from Licensing as Chaiyo is claiming distribution rights to the release of the series to DVD which Tsuburaya is disputing.

This is true. The copyright to the Ultraman characters and shows have always been recognized as being that of Tsuburaya.

Meanwhile, Pro-Link Co., Ltd., Tsuburaya's official Thai representative (who has the rights in Thailand to the shows from Ultraman Tiga on), is currently handling the case in their own country.

I can answer another question of yours - While Tsuburaya and Chaiyo have indeed only produced two movies together in 1974, only one was Ultraman-related. (The 6 Ultra Brothers Vs. the Monster Army, the other being Jumborg Ace & Giant) This was the only time that Tsuburaya and Chaiyo have ever really worked together.

But the fact is, Tsuburaya is a family business. They are not as powerful as, say, Toho, but they are still a very strong company (which has to this day worked with companies such as Bandai, Panasonic, Vap and others). And you might not believe this, but even now, Ultraman is more popular in Japan than Godzilla (and perhaps always has been). But right now, because of Chaiyo's basically being a parasite in more ways than one, Tsuburaya's legacy is at stake, and they have to be very, very, very careful when handling legal cases like this.

#20 of 173 OFFLINE   Mark Talmadge

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Posted February 14 2006 - 08:09 AM

I think the problem with the whole Chaiyo thing is that I don't think their acclaimed rights would stand up too well in the United States. Most of the bootleg material does come from Asian but it's outside of Japan.

I would think that if Tsuburaya decided to press the issue against Chaiyo and BCI's release in a US Court they would have a fair chance of winning suit and halting the release of BCI's product of Ultraman. This is all just speculation but I think it would work this way.


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