US Jury Rules in Favor of Tsuburaya in Ultraman Rights Lawsuit Against UM Corporation
A Los Angeles court jury ruled in favor of Tsuburaya Productions against UM Corporation noting the 1976 “Agreement” that granted licensing rights to Chaiyo Productions was deemed “not authentic”.
The ruling that took place on Monday, November 20 at 11:30am is the latest in a long history of international licensing and rights dispute between Tsuburaya Productions and Thai company, Chaiyo Productions and its owner, Sompote Saengduenchai, colloquially known as Sompote Sands.
According to SciFi Japan, the eight member jury unanimously ruled in favor of Tsuburaya Productions, with some jurors stating they believed the contested agreement was “not actually signed by Norobu Tsubaraya,” the son of Eiji Tsuburaya and president of Tsuburaya Productions from 1973 to 1995.
The suit was filed in a Los Angeles federal court back in May of 2015 by UM Corporation, or UMC, who currently holds the contested international licensing rights to the Ultraman material from Saengduenchai. The Hollywood Reporter reported that UMC had transferred the rights to three Ultra series, Ultra Q, Ultraman, and Ultra Seven, to distribution company, Verdana Entertainment in 2014.
When Verdana uploaded the videos from the early Ultra series to YouTube, it triggered YouTube’s Content ID system that alerted the same videos on Tsuburaya Productions official YouTube channel. Verdana Entertainment has since removed the videos, however, UMC went on to file the US federal complaint stating that Tsuburaya Productions was “in clear violation of the 1976 Agreement” by claiming ownership to the early Ultra series videos uploaded to their YouTube channel. Tsuburaya Productions then submitted a counter-suit due to UMC’s cease-and-desist notices.
Before the trial began, one of the issues the judge and lawyers had to agree on was the admissibility of a copy of Sompote’s passport. The copy of this document would indicate that Sompote was in Japan on March 4, 1976 when the document was dated. The issue rests on the court accepting a digital copy of the original document. The judge noted that such documents are easily altered or forged. As the pages stamped with locations and dates of entries and exits in question are separate images, it is not clear that the identifying page and subsequent stamped pages are all from the same passport. Judge Birotte said he would study the precedent of allowing copies of passports to be entered as evidence before making his decision.
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