The lawsuit against MGM and Toho was raised at the Tokyo District Court on August 7, 1992. As mentioned before, when I raised a lawsuit related to JSB, many newspaper companies called me on the phone and I had to explain the matter until midnight. So this time I prepared a press release and waited. But not as many telephone inquiries as I had expected were made and I felt deflated. The next day's morning issue of Mainichi Shimbun contained the following article:

Director Akira Kurosawa Counter-filed a Suit against U.S.
Company on the Remake Right of "Seven Samurai"

With respect to remaking of the masterpiece by Director Kurosawa "Seven Samurai" (Released in 1954), Director Kurosawa and Kurosawa Production raised a lawsuit against Metro Golden Mayer (MGM), a major U.S. film distribution company, asking for confirmation of non-existence of the right at the Tokyo District Court on August 7th. This is countermeasure to deal with MGM's assertion of its possession of the remake right and raising a suit at the U.S. court. According to the petition, etc., Toho, a Japanese company who had distributed "Seven Samurai", has transferred in 1958 the remake right of the original script to a U.S. film company Alciona Production, and "The Magnificent Seven", an American version of "Seven Samurai", was made (released in 1960). Director Kurosawa and others raised a lawsuit in 1973 against Toho asserting that the transfer to Alciona of the right had been done without permission of the author. The 1978 judgement by the Tokyo District Court was in favor of Director Kurosawa's side stating that "the copyright holder of the script owns the right to make the film", and the transfer of the remake right was deemed as "transfer without permission".

In December 1991, however, MGM raised a lawsuit at the California State District Court against Director Kurosawa and others asserting that MGM had succeeded the remake right from Alciona and asking for the confirmation of the right.

Lawyer Jun Norisugi of Director Kurosawa side stated that "It seems that MGM is intending to televise "Seven Samurai". If we raise a lawsuit in the United States, it is a distant place and we may not be able to make a sufficient defense so we raised a suit".

It took almost four months since we decided to raise a suit before actually raising the suit, but we had to solve various problems because this was the first time I handled such kind of a lawsuit. Since Japanese courts only accept documents written in Japanese language, it took some time to translate MGM petition into Japanese, 45 pages long including documentary evidence. Viewing from legal aspects, with respect to the lawsuit against MGM, I studied judicial precedents and theories to see if a Japanese court would approve the jurisdiction or what kind of discussions should be done to make the court approve the jurisdiction. One problem left was delivery of the petition. It required more than three months delivering the petition to MGM in accordance with the procedures provided for by the Tokyo District Court under the International Treaty. There was no method to shorten such period so I had to submit a written statement to the Tokyo District Court asking to make an immediate delivery. I also stated that we desired to make both of the suit against MGM and the suit against Toho to be judged at the same court, which was not accepted. The suit against MGM was going to be judged by the 37 Department and the suit against Toho was going to be judged by the 35 Department.

The fact that Akira Kurosawa and three other script writers had filed a lawsuit against MGM had been conveyed to MGM through Lawyer Graubart. About a month after the file of the suit, someone who called himself as an agent in Japan of MGM called me. The lawyer was Mr. Yoichiro Yamakawa, my senior at the University of Michigan. We were directors of Japan alumni of the university and used to see each other at meetings. Mr. Yamakawa told me that regardless of whether delivery is made or not, MGM would respond to the lawsuit in Japan. This solved one of the big problems and the practical battles started.

Two lawsuits proceeded with fixed court dates at about one-month-interval. During the lawsuit against MGM, MGM side battled on the jurisdiction as I had expected. In the lawsuit against Toho, the point at issue was focused on whether or not the fraud was deemed valid. With respect to the latter case, I looked up several precedents, but I could find nothing which might be helpful and the court seemed to get annoyed. The only materials which Kurosawa side could use in order to certify the fraud were a copy of the letter attached to the petition to MGM and the 1990 settlement agreement. We had to give impression to the court that Toho's acts of entering into the settlement agreement without disclosing the existence of these documents were malicious enough to be determined as a fraud. But with only these limited materials, even though I planned to use various expressions, it ended up repeating of the same assertion over and over again.

In the U.S. lawsuits, discovery procedure continued, and a box full of documents were sent to us. At the U.S. lawsuits, MGM sued Toho and Kurosawa side and Toho sued Kurosawa Production. The lawsuit raised by Toho against Kurosawa Production contained a prior demand to Kurosawa Production for damages to be requested by MGM in case Toho loses the suit with MGM. Since the discovery procedure was being conducted under such circumstances, some of the materials sent from the U.S. contained those previously submitted by Toho. In order to request the other party submit documents during the course of discovery procedure, you do not have to specify a certain document. For example, you may say "all documents related to the 1978 Tokyo District Court Judgement on the Seven Samurai case". I found a copy of documents which Toho seemed to have been submitted in corresponding to such requirement, in the bundle of documents sent from the U.S. in December 1992. There was a clue to solve the mystery.

The documents were the petition of the 1978 Tokyo District Court Judgement, SAIDO MOUSHIIRESHO, and the statement for arbitration. Items 3 and 4 of the "Cause of Action" in the petition briefly stated what had happened thirty years before:

"3. At around November of Showa 35 (1960), Toho requested three plaintiffs to give consent to the transfer of the picture right of the script of "The Seven Samurai" to the U.S. Alciona Production Incorporated (hereinafter referred to as "Alciona"), which the three plaintiffs agreed. (This transfer means the old version Article 28-4 under which the right expires in three years as similar to the publication right, and the right to make one movie according to the custom). Thereafter, the plaintiffs expected to have further consultations with Alciona with respect to conditions to execute the transfer agreement or the terms and conditions of such agreement. The three plaintiffs, however, only received amounts of $5,000 and $2,000 and received no details of the agreement. I was doubtful because these amounts were obviously too small considering the scales of the U.S. film making and the Japanese film making. The three plaintiffs were surprised to find the newspaper's report describing the decision of making the sequel to "The Magnificent Seven" in addition to "The Magnificent Seven" although the transfer was anticipated to be a transfer for just one movie making right, who strictly protested to Toho as to when and under what terms and conditions contract was executed and demanded them to disclose the details of the contract, but Toho evaded a direct answer and did not clarify them. In Showa 43 (1960), the following facts became clear according to the studies by the three plaintiffs.

4. It was revealed that Toho had already executed a contract with Alciona without disclosing any contents thereof to the plaintiffs, etc. on September of Showa 33 (1958), two years before Showa 35 (1960), when the above-mentioned written consent was made, and that the above-mentioned $5,000 and $2,000 were based on this agreement. It also became clear that Toho pretended to be the sole copyright holder of the scenario rights in the whole world and stated so to Alciona and that the fact that it had sold such rights forever was found."

This petition was prepared by the lawyer Mr. Katsumoto who was the agent for the three scenario writers including Akira Kurosawa. Taking a look at the notice and the application for arbitration again, it seems that Mr. Katsumoto had been negotiating with Toho on behalf of the three scenario writers from approximately three years before the lawsuit. From the contents of these documents, the facts described below can be presumed.

On September 1958, Toho made a contract under which the remake right to film "The Seven Samurai" was to be given to Alciona, but it had not yet noticed that the transfer of such right would be illegal because no consent had been obtained from the writers. "The Magnificent Seven", the remake of "The Seven Samurai" was produced in 1960, and on November of the same year, Toho obtained the above-mentioned written consent from the three writers including Akira Kurosawa. We are not sure whether or not the writers had already known that "The Magnificent Seven" was produced and that the film was a remake of "The Seven Samurai", but it is true that they had not been informed of the fact that Toho had made a contract with Alciona. If discussions were made on condition that the contract had been executed, the date of agreement with Alciona could have been specified and could have made clear what the writers had agreed to. Although the writers received the sums of $5,000 and $2,000 from Toho afterward, they were not informed of the details of the contract with Alciona.

In 1966, Millish Productions produced a theatrical movie called "Return of the Seven", a sequel to "The Magnificent Seven". The writers who were informed of such fact protested against Toho because they were thinking that the consent was limited to only one remake and demanded them to disclose the contents of the agreement which Toho did not accept. At around 1968, the writers found out the details of the contract between Toho and Alciona by their own surveys, and offered Toho to have discussion. According to "Second Offer", the first offer was made with the written document dated February 10, 1968. Toho gave an answer document dated February 17 stating "Both of Ms. Kawakita and Mr. Fujimoto who are in charge of this problem are currently visiting the United States and we are afraid that we cannot reply you before February 20 as you requested. Accordingly, we will give you our reply as soon as they return." Toho did, however, refused to have a consultation, and the scenario writers submitted a draft resolution dated October 1, 1970. Toho did not give a favorable reply to their idea, so we made a new idea for resolution as another proposal on June 23, 1971.

After all, we could not reach an agreement through discussions, and the scenario writers raised arbitration at the Tokyo Summary Court on August 19, 1971. By this arbitration, however, the dispute was not solved, and the scenario writers raised a suit before the Tokyo District Court in May, 1973.

The above story is based on the documents written by Attorney Katsumoto, the agent for the scenario writers, and you may think it unilateral. But when you compare the story with the contents of the Tokyo District Court judgement of 1978, it looks true for the most part. In Chapter V "Doubts by Insurance Company", I stated that there was a part referring to the characters of the written approval in the cause of the Tokyo District Court judgement. The scenario writers said that the written approval was related to transfer of the remake right of the scenario to Alciona. On the contrary, Toho sated that it sought approval for adding changes to the details of the script on the background, names of the characters, their characteristics, etc. The wordings of the written approval, as I referred to in Chapter VII "Appearance of Written Approval", were not related to the copyright holder's character right, but were stating clearly the approval of the transfer of the remake right of the scenario. As neither the writers nor Toho did raise any objection against the only one time existence of the "approval", there is no doubt that the written approval submitted by Toho as evidence at this suit is the written approval raised as an issue under the 1978 Tokyo District Court judgement. The fact that the plaintiff and the defendant made opposing opinions against each other and the court made no determination upon them at the 1978 judgement means that no written consent had been submitted at the trial as evidence. The wordings of the written consent was consistent with the details of the assertion made by the scenario writers, and if the writers had had the written consent at that time they would naturally have submitted them as evidence. We are unable to clarify the true fact whether the writers did not have any copy of the written consent or they had lost it. With respect to Toho, they must have had the written consent at the time of the last trial as long as they submitted the document at this time. The story that the document was invalid at the last trial and it had been found from the bottom of warehouse before this trial, such story is not realistic.

Then why did Toho hide the consent and asserted that the consent related to the character right?@Because if they submitted the consent, it would endorse the writers' assertion, which would result in losing the lawsuit.

Assuming this assumption is correct, Toho should have been aware that the consent was imperfect which had no effect to ratify the right given from Toho to Alciona. There are several possibilities concerning its imperfection, but at least Toho did not explain the details of the contract with Alciona to the writers to obtain their approval. As a general rule, Toho should have made a contract with the writers containing another agreement with Alciona and its Japanese translation to give consent to the whole contents of the contract. Toho's failure to do so indicate Toho's feeling guilty on their correspondence. For example, the writers who found the making of "The Magnificent Seven" made a protest and Toho might have asked them to give them consent saying that they were just making a contract to approve just one remake film.