Copyright System in Japan



    With the advancement and the diversification of information technology, we are using a large variety of methods for creating and using literary and artistic works, thus spreading numerous works more extensively across the globe. As a result, an increasing number of people are being involved in copyrights.

    In light of this new environment, including spread of the Internet, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) adopted the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) in 1996. Japan consecutively revised relevant laws and regulations in 1997, 1999, 2000, and 2002 in line with these treaties. The country acceded to the WCT in 2000 and the WPPT in 2002.

    The Japanese government has been endeavoring to effectively protect and use intellectual property, ranging from animated cartoon and music to inventions and plant varieties. In February 2002, for achieving the goal of making Japan an "intellectual property - based nation", Strategic Council on Intellectual Property Rights was set up in Japan to deal with a diversity of problems under the initiative of the Prime Minister. In July, the Council released Intellectual Property Policy Outline. In December, Basic Law on Intellectual Property was enacted. Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters was set up in March 2003. And in July, "Strategic program for the creation, protection and exploitation of Intellectual Property" was issued and has been built up annually to implement policies stipulated in the law. Meanwhile, the Council for Science and Technology Policy and the Judicial Reform Headquarters are extensively discussing how to properly protect intellectual property.

    JCO, which is in charge of copyright issues and procedures, has designated strategic fields for developing a comprehensive copyright policy: (1) streamlining laws and regulations, (2) developing smooth distribution systems, (3) dealing with international issues, (4) reinforcing education on intellectual property.

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    [Strategic Actions]

    【1】Streamlining Laws and Regulations

    1. Response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership

    An outline agreement was reached for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in October 2015, and a signing ceremony was held for the agreement in February 2016. The TPP requires ① Extension of the term of protection for copyrighted works, etc., ② Certain crimes of copyright infringement to be made prosecutable without the need for a formal complaint, ③ improvement of a system of effective technological measures for managing use of copyrighted works, etc. (access control), ④ grant of remuneration right to secondary use fees of online music distribution, and ⑤ improvement of a system for pre-established damages.

    In response to this, the Legal Issue Subcommittee, the Copyright Subdivision of Council for Cultural Affairs, has made examinations based on opinions heard from relevant organizations, and in February 2016 compiled the “Report on How to improve systems respond to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)”. In order to improve the necessary systems proposed in this report, the “Bill for the Establishment of Relevant Laws to Accompany the Ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership” including partial revisions to the Copyright Act was submitted to the 190th Session of the Diet.

    2. The latest trend and future assignment

    The Subdivision on Copyright of the Council for Cultural Affairs has discussed numerous issues concerning copyrights in response to rapid progress of the digital and network society, as well as social demands described in the Intellectual Properties Strategies.

    (1) Latest amendment to the Copyright Law

    In April 25, 2014, a partial amendment to the Copyright Law was approved by the 186th Regular Diet session (Law No. 35 of 2014). Below is an outline of the amendment of the law.The provisions related to ① below came into effect on January 1, 2015. And the provisions related to ② below will come into effect on the date of the Treaty entering into force.

    Amendment of provisions relating to the right of publication in response to e-books

    To enable copyright owners to establish the right of publication on “electronic publishing” in favor of publishers, and to enable publishers to demand cessation of unauthorized transmission etc. on the Internet, the copyright law, which provided for only print publication, was re-examined, and amendments were made so that the copyright owner may establish the right of publication in favor of a person who takes the responsibility to provide e-book on the Internet. Moreover, amendments were also made on provisions on contents of the right of publication, obligation of publication, and request to terminate the right of publication etc., in case such right of publication in relation to e-book is established,

    Amendment to accede to the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances

    In line with the accession to the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances adopted at the WIPO Conference in June 2012, protection under the Copyright Law is also granted to performances made by nationals of the Contracting Parties of the Treaty or by performers who have their habitual residence in the Contracting Parties of the Treaty.

    (2) Discussions at the Subdivision on Copyright

    In order to improve a copyright system in response to the progress of digitalization and networks advance, the Copyright Subcommittee of the Council for Cultural Affairs has discussed immediate issues concerning copyrights, including the matters stated in the Intellectual Property Strategy Plan 2015 (decision of the Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters in June 2015),etc. In fiscal 2015, the Legal Issue Subcommittee, the Subcommittee on the Appropriate Protection and the Use and Distribution of Copyrighted Works etc., and the Subcommittee on International Issues were established to discuss the issues. These three subcommittees have discussed various issues concerning copyrights, including the matters listed below.

    Promoting ICT use in education

    For the reason recent years have seen the increasing use of ICT in the field of education, the subcommittees have discussed issues in copyright systems relating to the promotion ICT use in education. Specifically, this includes examining challenges in copyrights for facilitating use of copyrighted works regarding 1) transmission of teaching materials in the class process, 2) sharing of teaching materials between instructors and educational institutions for the purpose of education, and 3) transmission of teaching materials in courses for the public, such as MOOC.

    Provisions of right restriction and smooth licensing systems that accurately responds to emerging needs

    In light of the fact the needs are emerging in order to create and develop services using copyrighted works, to make a focused examination of issues concerning this matter, a working team was established in July 2015. Prior to examination by the working team, JCO broadly accepted public comments on needs concerning the use of copyrighted works. Based on the result of the public comments, the subcommittee preferentially has discussed solutions for issues with particular emphasis on new businesses that use copyrighted works.

    Appropriate return to the creators

    The Creators continue their creative activities based on the return they are paid for the use of their copyrighted works. The compensation system for private sound and visual recording has turned into an empty shell by rising new devices and services. Therefore, appropriate return to the creators becomes an issue and the subcommittee has discussed how to solve this issue.

    Response to international Issues concerning copyrights

    The subcommittee has discussed responses to cross border Internet piracy and international rules concerning copyrights.

    (3) The establishment of penalties for illegal downloads

    The establishment of penalties for illegal downloads Following the amendment of Copyright Law in 2009, with the revision of the Copyright Act in 2012, a criminal penalty is imposed in cases of knowingly downloading illegally distributed digital sound or visual recordings, when these recordings are sold or distributed for a fee, even if the purpose is private use. (However, no claim will be filed unless there is a complaint from the right owner.)

    [2] Promoting Smooth Distribution Systems

    The spread of the Internet and the digitization of copyrighted works have dramatically changed the way of distribution of copyrighted works. The following measures have been introduced by JCO in its effort to promote distribution of works.

    1. Proper administration of the Law on Management Business of Copyright and Neighboring Rights

    Collective management of copyrighted works have expanded as a means of increasing the effectiveness of copyright enforcement and the convenience of users of works. In order to ensure that the “Management Business of Copyright and Neighboring Rights” are conducting their businesses properly, instruction and guidance, with the submission of annual report and periodic on-site inspections, is carried out in accordance with the “Law on Management Business of Copyright and Neighboring Rights”. (The number of registered organizations is 29, as of 1 March 2016.)

    2. The compulsory license system in cases where the copyright owner is unknown

    In case where the location of the copyright owner is unknown, JCO operates the compulsory license system for lawful use of works etc. In FY2015, JCO issued licenses concerning the use of 46,528 works in publications, performances in broadcast programs and others. In August 2014, to promote and encourage the use of past assets of contents containing works etc. of unknown right ownership, revision was made on what constitutes the “reasonable diligence” required by law and regulations in the process of searching for the right owner in cases where the right owner is unknown.In February 2016, in order to facilitate the use of copyrighted works, JCO relaxed conditions for the use of this system.

    JCO operates a registration system for copyrights etc. under the Copyright Act. Unlike patent rights, utility model rights and other industrial property rights which arise at registration, copyright arises automatically when a work is created, so formalities to obtain copyright are not necessary. The purpose of the this registration system is not to obtain rights, but registering the facts of public announcements of works, or transfers of copyright has a certain legal effect for estimates of the date of announcement, or for perfection against third parties.


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    【3】Dealing with International Issues

    As more people use digitized information and access digital networks, they are able to copy a variety of works on the Internet more easily. At the same time, digitized works are being distributed more actively across national borders. JCO is promoting the construction of antipiracy measures and an international rule to cope with these new circumstances.

    1. Strengthening antipiracy measures for the Asian region
    While interest has been growing in recent years in works created in Japan, including musical products and game software, illegal copies of such Japanese works are being produced and distributed on a large scale outside Japan, especially in other Asian regions, causing serious problems for Japanese right holders.

    To prevent the production and the distribution of pirated copies, it is essential to provide an environment that allows Japanese copyright owners to take prompt actions in the regions where copyright infringements occur.

    It is also important to build bilateral and multilateral frameworks that prompt concerned parties to streamline their copyright system through participation in related international conventions and set up a copyright management organization. If copyright infringements are mainly due to insufficient organization or administration of the legal system of a country, then we must require the country to initiate corrective measures in accordance with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS).

    In addition, JCO has supported the activities of an organization, called Contents Overseas Distribution Association (CODA), which aims to monitor illegal activities and take counter actions on behalf of copyright-related organizations and the contents industry. It has also endeavored to make strong demands on concerned countries in bilateral and multilateral negotiations so that they will strengthen control of illegal acts.

    2. Reinforcing Education for Copyright for Asian region
    JCO has long extended support, such as compilation of manual for the more effective use of civil and criminal procedures, publication of "Asian Copyright Handbook" for Asian people to reinforce education for copyright and implementation of cooperation program to enhance copyright systems for Asian nations cooperation with WIPO. In addition, it has also provided some programs inviting officials from Asian country to learn copyright systems in Japan several times a year.

    3. Participation in international effort to establish standardized rules
    In addition to the Berne Convention, the Rome Convention, and TRIPS, Japan acceded to the WCT and the WPPT and the Beijing Treaty. The country is also playing an active role in promoting discussions on the establishment of new treaties concerning the broadcasting organization, while at the same time encouraging Asian nations to ratify WIPO treaties, including the WCT and the WPPT.

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    【4】Reinforcing Education for Copyright

    It is becoming more important to have higher awareness and more knowledge about copyright. To cope with this circumstance, the national curriculum called "Course of Study" for junior and senior high schools prescribes the coverage of copyright in classes.
    In order to spread the knowledge of copyright, JCO holds seminars in each place of Japan. Each year, seminars are held at about thirteen locations for the general public, officials of local governments in charge of copyright, librarians and teachers.
    Also JCO prepares and provides teaching materials for various kinds of people. As for teaching materials, software to teach students about copyright, a collection of guidance cases for teachers, videos for college students and corporations, textbooks for beginners, and a Q&A database about copyright are offered via website [Japanese only]).

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