I’m not sure if I understand what is going on here, but Variety reports that Toho has won its lawsuit against Cosmo Coordinate, which tried to sell cheap editions of Kurosawa’s early movies in Japan, believing that their copyright had expired.
What puzzles me is that as far as I can remember, this verdict was actually given a year ago. Did Variety perhaps have a publishing error here, and a year ago when Mark Schilling typed his article, he mistakenly dated it for publication on 1st August 2009, when he actually meant 1st August 2008?
Whatever the reason for the sudden resurfacing of the court case, I am also somewhat uncertain why Variety’s explanation of the legal situation (“The copyright law changed in 1971, extending the term to 38 years after the creator’s death”) is different from the one that I gave a year ago (“Cosmo had earlier contested Toho’s copyright claim pointing out that based on a 1971 law change, Japanese copyright protects works only for 50 years after the release of the movie. The courts’ final decision, however, seems to be that copyright for movies made under the pre-1971 copyright law is calculated based on the old law, which extends copyright to 38 years after the creator’s death.”). Unfortunately, my source (Mainichi Daily News) seems to have removed their last year’s coverage of the news, so I cannot double check my sources.