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Download Rashomon at the Internet Archive

As reported earlier, Japanese movies made before 1953 are in public domain. The Internet Archive, which archives Internet and multimedia resources, has now added a downloadable version of Kurosawa’s Rashomon.

The classic movie that introduced Japanese cinema to the west can be downloaded in several different qualities, from a tiny 64Kb MPEG4 (95 MB) up to an MPEG2 stream (3.9 GB). I have yet to download the movie, so I cannot really comment on the print quality or the subtitles.

Click here to be taken to Internet Archive’s Rashomon page.


Discussion

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Master Thief

I have downloaded the first couple of minutes of the MPEG2 version to see what it is like. The quality is OK – very watchable. The sub-titles are the same as the Janus Films / Critereon versions.

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Vili Maunula

Thanks for the info, Master Thief. I will have to take a look as well at some point when I find the time. It’s interesting that the subtitles are the same as with Criterion as one would imagine them to be under copyright.

Or does anyone know if subtitles actually are copyrighted material?

I have also sometimes wondered about what exactly it means for a film like Rashomon to be in public domain. More specifically, which print of the film actually is in public domain?

I’m pretty sure that Criterion’s remastered editions, for example, are not public domain even if the copyright for the original films has expired. But on the other hand, if it is just the original print that is in public domain, it should be pretty easy for the film studio to simply not allow anyone to make copies from that.

Does anyone here know enough about international copyright laws to be able to enlighten me?

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Jeremy

I wonder the same thing.

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Vili Maunula

I wonder if you are also thinking about the same thing as I am: if we could get hold of the public domain prints and come up with subtitles for them, they could be made downloadable from this website or some other similar place. Possibly for a small enough fee to pay for the enormous bandwidth costs that this would create.

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Jeremy

Thats very interesting, I will look into it, and get back to you. I am no expert but I try to get a idea on how it works. Something to determine if the plan is realistic

It would seem to me that the company would own the subtitles, and only the original print would be public domain. I would think that means it would be the celluloid film print that is public domain and not any digital print done recently. If so it would be insanely expensive to do a film to digital print.

If it turns out that you can freely copy a digital print, off a DVD for say, then I have all the professional level editing equipment to provide different formats, and download sizes. I dont however have the means to transmit such large files, they would have to mailed on a DVD for you or someone else to uploaded to a server.

If the film is fair game and not the subtitles, I dont know of any means to add subtitles with out large amounts of time. I have no clue how this is done normally for DVD prints. This would be a problem from my ability to help.

I like the idea and will find out what I can.

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BMWRider

Actually I have been editing a set of subtitles for One Wonderful Sunday. Adding and subtracting subtitles is relatively easy. If Rashomon is in the public domain, that means everything before it is. That would suggest that we could rip the Chinese versions (which are of dubious origin to begin with), add our “enhanced” subtitles, and offer them with ease. In fact if several of us could work on the subtitles, we might be able to come up with decent versions of these early films. I wish I spoke Japanese, it would make this job easier. Even if we could offer better subtitles, that would be huge.

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Jeremy

What means are you doing the subtitle editing, is there a program that specializes in that?. I never really tried to do it, but I properly have anything that could do so. Also if we find out that there is a certain program that will be needed to aid us, then most likely I can get it, regardless of its price. My Japanese is very poor, nor do I know anyone that could translate to be better then the Chinese DVDs. I hope it turns out the Criterion translation are not owned, and digital prints are up for grabs. I havent done any research yet, but later on today I will start.

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Vili Maunula

DVD subtitles are basically image files, and can be created relatively easily. Although my experience with subtitling programs is that they have been a nightmare to use, I know that many people have been able to work with them just fine. There are a number of free ones out there as well, so costs should not be an issue.

It might, however, make more sense to distribute downloadable films in AVI format with srt subtitles. In that way bandwidth costs could be kept smaller. (Web hosting is something I also seem to have constant problems these days — as you may have noticed, my sites were just now down for a number of hours due to a rather questionable decision from my new webhost. I am not at all happy with them so far, after having switched to them a month or so ago.)

Anyway, what I have heard is that all pre-1953 Japanese films are in public domain, at least in Japan (see here). In Kurosawa’s case, this would mean that Ikiru (1952), and everything before it should be in public domain. I am, however, not 100% sure about this. And I also don’t know whether this is restricted to Japan, and copyright laws elsewhere work differently regarding these films. What sort of rights do, for example, the American distributors of these films have?

Subtitles could possibly be worked by using the Mei Ah versions as the starting point. My Japanese is on the level where I can’t translate directly from a film, but I can recognize translation mistakes most of the time if I actually see the subtitles.

I’m looking forward to hearing what Jeremy can find out. 🙂

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Jeremy

My research is in the early stages, and I will increase the detail of my findings and confirm their truth throughout the week.
Japan has no true public domain as the United States, instead it is simply a relaxed copyright on the material, it does however have restrictions.

Sorry, I have to suddenly leave 🙁 I will complete my statement later on

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Master Thief

I am currently in the process of adding English sub-titles to my stunning quality French DVD of Dodeskaden (for my private use of course). As there is no evidence or rumours of anybody (Critereon in particular) working on a decent version of this, I think this project is worthwhile depite the time it will take.

I have extracted the French sub-titles as an SRT file and am now about half way through checking them against the film. The program I used to do this is SubRip which is an OCR so I need to check it against the film to fix all the errors.

My next step is to translate the French into English. My long lost school days French is very basic and the on-line translators give you a worse translation than Mei Ah. I have the Mei Ah sub-titles also as an SRT file which I found on the internet, but because they are across 2 sides of a disc, it would take forever to match them up. Besides who wants another Mei Ah translated version even if the picture quality is stunning.

So if we have any French/English translators here, that would be a great help.

Of course if I ever got the project finished, I would need to deposit some back-up copies off-site in case of fire or theft. So offers of safe havens for these back-ups would also be appreciated.

I think it is a great idea to work on the out of copyright films to improve their sub-titles and quality if possible.

I have a full set of 30 films and some in multiple versions.

On Rashomon – I only checked the first couple of minutes but the sub-titles were exactly the same as Janus/Critereon down to the punctuation and line breaks, so I am pretty sure they are the same. You would need to watch more of it to see if there is any difference – I only downloaded to when the Commoner says: “What’s wrong? What don’t you understand?”. One thing that is different is that the sub-titles are bolder and sharper than on any other version I have. The picture is not as good as the Critereon though, but still pretty good.

I have an older version as part of a “The Films of Akira Kurosawa” Japaneses set. It’s only indentifier (in English) is “JDVD”. This DVD is no. 4 in the set. It opens with Eglish credits over the Japanese (in middle of screen) and is badged as “RKO Pictures – 1952”. It also has cameo moving pictures of all the main actors in the opening titles (Mifune, Kyo, Mori, Shimura, Chiaki). The opening dialogue sub-title is “I don’t understand it. I don’t understand it all!” which has a different meaning to the opening line on the Critereon, Eastern Eye & Archives version which is “I don’t understand. I just don’t understand”. This is starting to sound a bit obsessive!

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BMWRider

Sorry I have no knowledge of French. My DVD set is much like yours (I have them all, some in multiple versions). I have actually debated buying the VCR tapes that seem to have better subtitles, the problem is I do not own a VCR, nor do I want to. Master Thief I would be more than willing to work with you. I almost think it is worthwhile to hit all the Mei Ah releases that are unavailable any other way. If we could get decent subtitles they would be much more watchable. I truly wish we had a native Japanese speaker to help out, or at least someone who had a good knowledge of the language. Maybe I need to take a few classes when I am done with my PhD.

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Jeremy

I’ll provide more details later, but a few bullet points. Everything listed below is early findings, has not been confirmed completely and should be assumed incorrect.

-Japan has no true public domain its more a relaxed copyright on the material, the biggest restrictions is obtaining permission from the claimed owner of the works for its use. It appears that its the owner that decides if adding subtitles is modifying the works, if modifications are declared in good intrest to the original author then normally nothing else is require. The owner appears to have decision on that claim. Although Japan considers the work “copyright-free” it doesn’t not state in their law that payment for use of the works is not allowed by the owner, although this appears to be uncommon for owners to request such.

– In America subtitles can indeed be copyrighted, and no formal declaration is needed for their protection. It does appear that although they are protected, there could be exceptions. Using copyrighted subtitles as a guide to make your own, is possible but it gets technical as the original owner of the copyrighted subtitles most only declare similarity. I currently have found little information thus far on this issue, nor I have found any information about Japanese or any other countries law regarding the issue.

– In America you can copyright the works of public domain property, if you have preformed the works yourself, or significant modification is made. In this case it appears that although the works of Ikiru are public domain, the Criterion DVD is protected. I naturally assumed this to be so, however once again there is possible exceptions, for its use and will research futher. I still have found little information regarding other countries.

– The good thing is that after WWII, Japanese law regarding copy-rights, closely mirrors that of American. A film made before 1945 may have a different set of rules however. Japan also have made many changes to their copy-right laws around 1999, information regarding the changes it not easily found, but appears to only effect works after 1999.

-Japan, British, America law appears to promote displays of public domain works, as long as payment is not made for them. It does seem to have strict laws regarding what is consider payment for the works.
For say if a payment to this site is required to help cost of bandwidth and not the movie it self, it can technically be declared that your are still charging for access to the film. I am not entirely clear on this as of yet.

– It appears that in nearly all countries, if a copy-right law is broken, a request from the owner must be made first demanding its removal. If remove in a timely fashion, no other actions can be made. It is only when after the demand, and nothing has been done is legal actions allowed. This would protect the site, even if a charge for the bandwidth is made for the film.

American and British government publishes their laws though their own websites and allow easy access to information. French, Japan, China and a few others dont appear to have government owned websites on laws to the scale of the Americans and British.
Finding information has had little success.

I really havent found anything significant, as my research has only been brief, and very general.
I will research the steps to accomplish this project and the laws regarding it to its fullest as information and time allows.

As for hosts, Vili, I noticed your downtime last night. I dont know who you are using, where they are located nor their cost. You may want to consider a American company “GoDaddy” despite their odd name they are very professional and among the cheapest I ever found. I know alot of their clients are based on other countries and are very popular in America.

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Vili Maunula

Master Thief — I am capable of reading French, but unfortunately I lack the time at the moment to take over projects like these. I can ask my girlfiend/companion, who translates movies for an art cinema as a hobby & for pocket money, as she is well capable of doing a French-English translation. I’m not going to promise anything, though, as she is also rather busy these days. (Aren’t we all?)

I’d be really interested in working on this, though, so once I find myself with more time (hopefully from April or so), I’ll see what I can do.

In case you want, I am always ready to host the files. 🙂 If distributing the actual films would be too difficult, a subtitle database would already be of great help.

BMWRider — What are you doing your PhD on?

And you are right, a native Japanese speaker with a good command of English would be great to have. Unfortunately, while all my Japanese friends qualify in the first criterion, they fail the second.

I know that about 3% of the people visiting this website come from Japan (which is actually the second highest share for a single country — we have quite an international readership), so maybe we can find someone. I know that Wabisabi can watch the films without subtitles, but wouldn’t put pressure on her. 🙂

Jeremy — Thanks for all the information, and good luck with your further research! What you are doing is extremely helpful.

I’m afraid have heard a lot of negative things about GoDadd. I am currently hosted on the American provider “A Small Orange”, after having moved last month from the UK based provider called “Clook”, who were simply excellent. I had to move, however, as I would have needed to upgrade, and couldn’t really afford it right now as my income level drops hugely thanks to the military service.

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Master Thief

There are 1134 lines of sub-title in this version of Dodeskaden. I can email it to Vili so he can see the size of the task. I had better do a test re-compile of the DVD to ensure it all lines up correctly before anybody starts work on the translation though.

I have also asked for assistance from some others who might have the language skills, so I might get a number of volunteers. It is probably not a good idea to break the translation task up though.

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BMWRider

My post graduate work is in education, with a focus of technology integration in school curriculum. It is actually a lot of fun, I try to figure out which technology is the most effective in the classroom.

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Master Thief

I have a friend in France who is also a Kurosawa fan who has offered to help translate. His English is excellent, but he has no Japanese language skills.

I have run into a small problem with the project using sub-title workshop. I have done a test re-compile of the DVD after translating a small part of it myself. Unfortunately the VOB file with the actual movie on it has a trailer at the start, so when I copy the new VOB file back to try and match up with the other contents, the sub-titles are way out of sync. I am trying to figure out a solution, but if anybody else has had experience with this and can offer any guidance, I would appreciate it.

Archives Rashomon – I suspect that this could even be a downgraded copy of the Critereon release. Somebody may have upgraded the sub-title font to “Thick Outline” style which makes it larger and sharper but also helps conceal its origin.

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Vili Maunula

BMWRider – “Computers in the EFL classroom” was actually a subject I almost considered writing my language pedagogy thesis on (there is a lot of theory but so little practical progress done in the area). In the end I chose to explore a topic that was closer to my current interests, namely intercultural communication and the question of identities in language teaching.

Master Thief – I’m not entirely sure if I get what your situation with the trailer and the movie is, but can’t you just re-synch the subtitles by adding or substracting the amount of time taken by the trailer? Alternatively, can you just cut out the trailer and re-author the DVD without it?

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Jeremy

I have the ability to edit any video content and could easily remove or replace the trailer in the beginning. However how to get me the VOB file is unknown to me, I dont have the internet connection to realistically download and upload such a file. If no other way can be thought of, perhaps mailing it would work for me.

If by chance you have access to Sony Vegas 7, or a more high-end editing software such as Avid. With someone who just knew a basic amount in these programs such a task is very simple.

I will post more detail information regarding the legality of this project toward the end of the week

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Master Thief

To overcome the sync problem with Dodeskaden, I am going to cut out the trailer. I had wanted to preserve it as is and just ad the English sub-titles, but it may be too time consuming to line it all up.

I just saw that Critereon are releasing Kenji Mizoguchi’s “Sansho the Bandit” on 22 May which I am sure will be of interest to most Kurosawa fans:

http://www.criteriondvd.com/item_info.php?item_id=463

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Vili Maunula

Most subtitle authoring programs should allow you to simply add X seconds to the beginning of the subtitles, so the only thing you should find out is how long the trailer is, after which (if I understand correctly), the subtitles should synch just fine.

Thanks for the Mizoguchi info.

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Master Thief

Yeah! I have figured it out and got it sycronised. I’ll email the sub-title file to my friend in France now.

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Vili Maunula

Great! 🙂

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Master Thief

I have set up a page for the sub-title files that I have extracted so far from the early films as well as the French Dodeskaden. I haven’t checked through most of these to fix any obvious problems yet.

Unfortunately my DVD of “The Most Beautiful” appears to be quite faulty and I haven’t been able to extract the video or subs yet.

http://kurosawa.jokerman.net/

I have also had contact from a Japanese speaking friend in the UK who has an interest in Kurosawa. I’ve asked him if he may have the time to assist us with some re-translation projects.

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Vili Maunula

Good work, Master Thief!

Maybe someone here can help you with the Most Beautiful subs. Unfortunately, I don’t personally have the film on DVD.

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BMWRider

I’ll see if I can extract the subtitles this weekend.

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Jeremy

I may have some rather good news, but I will wait til Monday before posting anything, to ensure it turns out.

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Jeremy

I still have some good news, that might aid us, however I cant deliver that information today with complete confidence. I would rather wait, then post information that I might have to later deny.
I been very busy, more then normal for this time of year, so I have fallen behind on some of my tasks, but I will continue to try to get this project some legs.

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Vili Maunula

Just take your time, Jeremy. 🙂

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Jeremy

I have not forgot about this project and had hopes of providing lots of information long ago.

A few personal changes and projects have gotten a little out of control and are consuming large portions of my time. For the mean time I am left with very little desire and energy for hobby projects, such as this one. Luckily everything is going well, and by next month I will continue my research regarding possible downloads, and will start to frequent the site more often.

Vili, I hope your doing well in your military service. 🙂

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Vili Maunula

All good things come to those who wait, so we keep waiting, Jeremy. There is no hurry with these things. 🙂

And I’m doing quite ok with the military/civil service. The first phase, a kind of a preparatory camp, is now almost over, and the work service will start soon.

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