It's a trend lately, apparently. Remake Akira Kurosawa's films and revive him from the dead for coffee ads.
Jason Gray has written more on the remakes here on his blog.
UPDATE: Yale Prof. Aaron Gerow reports this news about Kurosawa Akira's pre-1953 catalog on the KineJapan mailing list. Intriguing stuff:
Sorry for the delay in reporting this, but the Mainichi and other papers reported on Friday that Toho and Kadokawa have won their case against a DVD maker selling cut-rate DVDs of Kurosawa's pre-1953 works. I had reported on this case before, but after several courts had declared that films made before 1953 were public domain, Toho tried the unique route of arguing that Kurosawa's films were 1) covered under the old copyright law, which protects works by individual authors for 38 years after their death (works by corporate authors are only covered for 38 years after the release of the work); and 2) that Kurosawa's films should be treated as works of an individual author. The Tokyo court accepted Toho's argument in part because the credits state at the beginning: "Director Kurosawa Akira". The DVD company, which asserted these were films by a corporate author, announced it will be appealing.
I was surprised to hear the decision, but perhaps it shows that the court doesn't take into account history. The whole thing is ironic, first, because Toho was the company that insisted in its first years on crediting directors only with "enshutsu" not "kantoku" precisely to downplay their importance; and second, because the new copyright law changed the provisions regarding film copyright to eliminate the possibility--still existent, but very ambiguous, in the old law--that individuals could be the authors of studio films (changes I am sure the film companies advocated). I also wonder whether Toho isn't just opening a Pandora's box in trying to protect its profits from Kurosawa DVDs. Will now any old Toho director begin suing Toho for their share of DVD sales now that the courts have confirmed they have the copyright? And what will Kurosawa's family do?
Reading this and other recent legal decisions governing copyright and decency laws in Japan makes me wonder if there's any sort of real consideration for long term effects of these decisions or whether it is, as to be expected, purely short-term and politically motivated?