Tsuburaya Productions Releases Statement Over Unauthorized Use of Ultraman in Chinese Film
Source: Tsuburaya Productions
On October 1, 2017, the Chinese animation studio Guangzhou BlueArc Culture Communications Co., Ltd. released DRAGON FORCE: SO LONG ULTRAMAN (钢铁飞龙之再见奥特曼, Gāngtiě fēilóng zhī zàijiàn àotèmàn), a 3D computer animated film featuring Tsuburaya Productions’ Ultraman. But BlueArc hadn’t licensed the character from Tsuburaya, but rather from UM Corporation, a Japanese company claiming it had worldwide rights outside Japan to Ultraman. Tsuburaya Productions has long disputed this claim, with the case against UMC being heard in multiple countries, most recently the United States (where Tsuburaya prevailed in 2018).
Today (January 18, 2019), BlueArc released DRAGON FORCE: RISE OF ULTRAMAN (钢铁飞龙之奥特曼崛起, Gāngtiě fēilóng zhī àotèmàn juéqǐ), a sequel to the 2017 film, in Chinese cinemas. Tsuburaya Productions has issued the following statement in response…
Notice on unauthorized use of ULTRAMAN character in Chinese film
We, Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd, (“TPC”), express our views on the following films and TV works (collectively referred to as “Blue Arc Works”), which Guangzhou Blue Magic Culture Communications Co., Ltd. (广州蓝奇文化传播有限公司), Guangzhou Blue Arc Animation Media Co., Ltd.(广州蓝弧动画传媒有限公司), and Guangzhou Blue Arc Culture Communications Co., Ltd.(广州蓝弧文化传播有限公司) (collectively referred to as “Blue Arc Group”) were involved in producing and conducting sales activity.
Blue Arc Works:
1. DRAGON FORCE: SO LONG ULTRAMAN (钢铁飞龙之再见奥特曼 2017: Movie)
2. DRAGON FORCE 2 (钢铁飞龙2奥特曼力量 2018: TV series)
3. DRAGON FORCE: RISE OF ULTRAMAN (钢铁飞龙之奥特曼崛起 2019: Movie)
Now, we express our views on such matter:
1) TPC is the sole copyright owner and holder of all ULTRAMAN series (“ULTRAMAN Works”). This is a fact without any dispute.
2) Regarding the use of the ULTRAMAN character in the above Blue Arc Works, Blue Arc Group never received permission whatsoever from TPC, the copyright holder of all ULTRAMAN Works. TPC has nothing to do with these Blue Arc Works and such works are infringing our rights, as they used our ULTRAMAN character without receiving any permission from TPC.
3) Hence, TPC filed a lawsuit in China (Shanghai) against Blue Arc Group, accusing that tampering of the ULTRAMAN character infringes the rights of TPC, and to demand Blue Arc Group to cease its infringing activity.
4) Blue Arc Group may argue that the Japanese company named UM Corporation (“UMC”) holds exclusive rights to use and exploit part of ULTRAMAN Works worldwide (excluding Japan), and that it has been granted a license by UMC and/or its licensee. While it is true that there exist different judgments in each country on the existence of rights purported to be claimed by UMC, all courts in each and every country have recognized that the copyrights of any kind of ULTRAMAN series belongs to TPC. NONE of the countries have ever ruled that UMC was granted the right to create or exploit any new ULTRAMAN series, as UMC does not possess any rights to produce derivative ULTRAMAN Works, like the ones of Blue Arc Works.
5) Also, with regard to our pending litigation with UMC in the U.S., and at the Trial held in Los Angeles, California (U.S.) in November 2017, Perasit Saengduenchai (“Pete”), representative director of UMC, under oath in his testimony, admitted that he has no rights to adaptation, as when he was asked if he believes he has rights to adaptive works, he stated “No.”
U.S. District Court entered first Judgment on April 18, 2018, denying exclusive usage rights of UMC claimed to have, as it ruled that the alleged document, from which UMC claimed to have received ULTRAMAN usage rights worldwide, excluding Japan, was not an authentic agreement and is invalid. In the process of the litigation, U.S. District Court ruled in favor of TPC that apart from the authenticity of the alleged document, UMC has no rights to produce or exploit new works and that they do not possess adaptation or derivative works of ULTRAMAN Works at any rate, as such alleged document is unambiguous that it did not transfer the rights in derivative works.
Additionally, the U.S. District Court ordered UMC to pay over 4.5 million US dollars in damages for its infringement of TPC’s rights and for our attorney’s fees and litigation costs. Therefore, it is obvious that UMC does not possess the right to produce derivative works of ULTRAMAN Works, like the ones of Blue Arc Works.
Even with these situations, if we find anybody exploiting ULTRAMAN works in response to Blue Arc Group inquiry, we will take all necessary legal steps to protect our legal rights.
About Tsuburaya Productions
Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd. has created dozens of heroes and other characters, including Ultraman, who have been loved from generation to generation. The base for the company was Tsuburaya Visual Effects Research, which was launched by the Japanese “Father of Special Effects” Eiji Tsuburaya. After showing his skill and making a name for himself working on many monster movies and special effects laden fantasy science films, in 1963 Tsuburaya incorporated Tsuburaya Visual Effects Research and established Tsuburaya Productions Co., Ltd. in order to advance further research and development of special effects technologies and release visual works that could be enjoyed by a wider audience. The company has continued to maintain Eiji Tsuburaya’s policies even after his death.
2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the company’s founding, and it continues its work to this day. Currently, the company carries out activities including production of works for television, original video works, and films for theatrical release; licensing of owned characters’ content; development of various products; event planning and live staged events that bring out the maximum appeal of its owned characters, and development of facilities that handle related items.