The Tokyo High Court ordered an animation company and its subsidiary Wednesday to pay approximately 88 million yen in damages to 361 voice actors for converting cartoons they performed on into videos and DVDs without their consent.
The plaintiffs — voice actors belonging to the actors’ association Nihon Haiyu Rengo — sued Nippon Animation Co. and its sound and image subsidiary, Onkyo Eizo System Co., in 2000 for converting 31 cartoon series produced in the 1980s and 1990s into videos and DVDs without paying royalties for the use of their voices.
The Tokyo District Court in November ordered that only the subsidiary, which had direct contracts with the voice actors in question, had to pay damages.
Onkyo Eizo System had appealed that while it had intended to pay, it was not able to, as the parent company did not provide funds for this cost.
Both Onkyo Eizo System and the plaintiffs had appealed the ruling.
Wednesday’s ruling not only determined that the parent company was also liable for the payment, but also ordered the accused parties to pay the litigation costs in full, resulting in an all-out victory for the plaintiffs.
Presiding Judge Yomatsu Hinagata ruled: “The animation company contracts out just the part that deals with the sound to the sound production company.
“The two parties must have an agreement over the performing fee for the voice artists.”
He added that the court also acknowledged that Onkyo Eizo System has no capacity to pay.
While Onkyo Eizo System hires the voice artists, all income from the cartoons goes to the parent company.
According to the plaintiffs, the contract the voice actors exchanged with Onkyo Eizo System has a clause about an “extraordinary usage charge,” which is meant to be paid when the cartoons are used at times other than the original broadcast.
While both Onkyo Eizo System and the plaintiffs had an understanding that the extraordinary charge applied to new media such as videos and DVDs, Nippon Animation argued that it only applied to TV reruns, based on an old law enacted at the time videos and DVDs did not exist.
Nippon Animation had also stated that other animation companies did not pay such fees, but the court rejected this argument.
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