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TOKYO — Charlie Chaplin’s estate and management still own the copyright on nine of his movies, at least until 2015, the Tokyo District Court ruled Wednesday in the first such decision regarding the rights of a deceased writer-director.
“The authorship of the nine movies belongs to Chaplin. From when Chaplin died in 1977, the copyright continues to be valid for 38 years, until 2015,” Judge Misao Shimizu decreed, as he ordered two Tokyo companies to cease the production and sale of discount Chaplin DVDs.
The two companies had copied and sold DVDs of nine of Chaplin’s works made between 1919 and 1952 including “The Great Dictator,” “Modern Times” and “The Gold Rush,” on which it claimed the copyrights had expired.
The DVDs were sold for ¥500 ($4.35) in bookstores and discount shops around Japan, as are many older Hollywood titles.
The case was brought by Roy Export Company Establishment, which holds and manages on behalf of Chaplin’s descendants the rights of all his films made after 1918.
The plaintiff, which issued warnings to the firms before they began selling the DVDs, had sought damages of ¥94 million ($815,000), but Judge Shimizu ordered the companies to pay only ¥10 million ($86,600) in compensation.
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