The Tokyo District Court on Tuesday rejected a request by a U.S. movie company to suspend sales of low-priced DVDs of old movie classics like “Roman Holiday,” which was released in 1953, on grounds that they violate copyrights.
In turning down the injunction request, presiding Judge Makiko Takabe said copyrights to movies released in 1953 expired at the end of 2003.
The court ruling comes in response to Paramount Pictures Corp.’s petition for an injunction against First Trading Co., a Japanese company that manufactures DVDs of classic films and sells them at deep discounts.
The decision, which allows discount sales of films distributed before 1954, is likely to have a major impact on the movie industry, observers said.
Amendments to the copyright law that took effect Jan. 1, 2004, extended the period of protection for movie copyrights to 70 years from the previous 50 years.
Because the rights to films released in 1953 and before can be considered to have expired at the end of 2003 — under the older law — a legal debate has arisen over whether the extended copyrights should apply to such films.
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