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GreenCine Movie Talk
From Albania to Zaire, there's a whole world out there.

Legality of Japanese bootlegs?
Topic by: PGalloway1
Posted: November 9, 2005 - 7:23 PM PST
Last Reply: November 10, 2005 - 8:18 AM PST

author topic: Legality of Japanese bootlegs?
post #1  on November 9, 2005 - 7:23 PM PST  
I saw a post here awhile back pertaining to some loophole that makes it legal to sell bootlegs of Japanese movies in the US. Anybody got any info re: this topic? Thanks.
post #2  on November 9, 2005 - 8:25 PM PST  
Here's a link to that thread.... from what I could see that Revok claim is a load of crock. I think any intellectual property lawyer would say so too. "There is one exception, however, to the requirement that a work be registered prior to filing of an infringement action. This exception is for foreign works protected by the Berne Convention." That seems pretty clear to me...
post #3  on November 9, 2005 - 8:39 PM PST  
Japan is a signatory of the Berne Convention

(4) Accession to International Conventions

Japan has been a member of the Berne Union since 1899. As the contents of the new Copyright Law fulfilled the obligations of both the Brussels Act (1948) and the Paris Act (1971) of the Berne Convention, Japan acceded to the former in 1974 and ratified the latter in 1975.

To cope with the digitization and networking society, Japan acceded to the WIPO Copyright Treaty in 2000 and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty in 2002 .
post #4  on November 9, 2005 - 8:52 PM PST  
Wikipedia articles on:

The Berne Convention

"The Public Domain"

Clearly, if a work was copyrighted in the country of origin, it's not "public domain" in the US!
post #5  on November 9, 2005 - 9:01 PM PST  
09-07-03, 02:20 AM
The section of American copyright law known as "The Berne Act" clearly states: films unreleased in the United States, including original version of films altered and/or edited for release in the United States, are not protected by American copyright; thus, they are considered public domain.

Statements don't get any more false than this one.

1. There is no American law called "The Berne Act." There is an international treaty that the US has entered into that is referred to as the Berne Convention. But in the US, treaties are not law. Treaties do not bind the actions of citizens, they bind the actions of governments. Even if the Berne Convention stated what Revok claims it does, it would be irrelevant to US citizens unless Congress had passed a law enacting it.

2. The Berne Convention says no such thing, anyway. The US certainly does grant copyright protection to films (and any other works) not released in the US. A work does not have to ever actually be released to get copyright protection under US law. Imagine if they weren't protected: multinational corporations would hurry to quickly release foreign films on their own in the US before the foreign film studio had a chance to do so themselves. This would be absurd. This includes alternate versions of films, too, of course. The extended TV cut of Dune (besides having been "released" on TV in the US, anyway) is most certainly under copyright protection in the US, and it will remain so until the end of its term (presumably 95 years from its original airdate) even if it is never officially released on home video.

Revok are long-standing bootleg dealers, and their attempted legalese doesn't stand up to even basic logic. The only thing "for real" about Revok is that they sell "real" bootlegs and their explanation of the law is "real" bull*****.

post #6  on November 9, 2005 - 9:04 PM PST  
The Fanciful Norwegian
Joined: 02 Nov 2004
PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2004 2:03 am

I know Superhappyfun is great, and for the most part legal. Some of their older stuff is now in print, but the stuff out of print in the US is not protected by copyright."

Actually, everything at Super Happy Fun is protected by copyright, except for movies so old they no longer qualify for protection (which probably amount to about zero percent of their inventory), or movies that fell into the public domain through some Night of the Living Dead-style slipup. Being out of print doesn't mean something isn't protected by copyright; most of Disney's animated movies aren't in print, but if I started a company with the express purpose of selling homemade DVDs of Mulan, I'd be in court within five minutes, and I guarantee you I would lose.

I always find it a bit amusing that outfits like Super Happy Fun cite the Berne Convention (or the "Berne Act," as they usually call it) as proof of the legality of their operations, since the Berne Convention says pretty much the exact opposite of what they say it does. SHF et al. claim that the Berne Convention states works not copyrighted or distributed in the U.S. are considered public domain; in fact, the entire point of the Berne Convention is that works don't have to be copyrighted in a particular country to enjoy copyright protections in that country -- so long as a work is copyrighted in a Berne Convention signatory, it's considered copyrighted in all Berne Convention signatories. The Conventions contain no exemptions for videos unreleased or out of print in a particular country, and with 157 nations on board (comprising pretty much all countries with any film industry to speak of), there's not a whole lot of wriggle room.

To be fair, SHF is hardly alone in promoting this completely bass-ackwards reading of the Convention -- do a Google search for "Berne Act" and you'll find plenty of folks doing it, and Video Search of Miami is often credited for being the first to do so (which may or may not be true). But even if works currently unavailable in the U.S. are protected under copyright law (which they are), SHF/VSOM-type operations don't have much to fear in the way of legal repercussions, since there's no domestic distributor being harmed by such bootlegging and as such no compelling reason for the copyright holder to go to the trouble and expense of suing (particularly since the amount of special damages they could claim would be pretty limited).

Anyway, the legality aside, I personally have no moral or ethical qualms with bootlegging otherwise unavailable movies. I got my copy of Mister Freedom from SHF. Very nice quality, but there seems to be a chunk missing from the Jesus-and-Mary-in-the-subway scene -- Jesus says something, then there's a cut to another angle and Jesus' sentence is abruptly cut short. There's a lot of other jarring jump cuts in the film but I suspect those were intentional. Anybody else have this movie (in any format, from any distributor) who'd be willing to confirm/deny the presence of such anomalies? I suspect SHF took their transfer from the Japanese DVD so maybe the problem is there too.
post #7  on November 10, 2005 - 8:18 AM PST  
Thanks, hamano! You da man!

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