Ultraman, it’s one of Japan’s superheros like America’s Superman. A copyright holder of Ultraman, Tsuburaya Productions has been in dispute with Chinese production companies which produced and released a film featuring Ultraman in 2017. These Chinese companies now released another film featuring Ultraman. In response to this, Tsuburaya Productions made a statement on January 17 2019 that “we will take all necessary legal steps to protect our legal rights.” (The featured photo is a scene in the film trailer).
This case is actually not so simple like typical Chinese copycat cases. The disputes began with a Thai businessman (Chaiyo Productions), who had friendship with a former president of Tsuburaya Productions, claiming right to use and exploit Ultraman worldwide, excluding Japan, more than twenty years ago. The Chinese companies described above appear to argue that they obtained a license from a Japanese company (UM Corporation) which took over the right from Chaiyo Productions.
These copyright disputes have been fought over in courts of Japan, China, Thailand, and the United States so far. Tsuburaya Productions lost a case in Japan and China, while it won in Thailand and the United States (Here is a Tsuburaya Productions’ press release for the US case). In every case, a question at issue was whether the license contract is true or forged. The courts examined whether the seal or handwritten signature on the contract. Then, they made different decisions for the same contract. It means that a seal and a handwritten signature are not enough to prove that it is a true contract.
I have heard that, in China, contracts are sometimes forged or modified even after signed. So, once signed, we can’t rest easy yet. We should consider ways to prove that it is a true contract. From this perspective, I’m expecting contract management using blockchain technology which provides identity verification and anti-tamper function. Blockchain will be able to help reducing unnecessary disputes.
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