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Japan to outlaw downloading illegally reproduced content?

The Private Music and Video Recording Subcommittee (私的録音録画小委員会) of Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs is pushing for a revision of Article 30 of the copyright law, which will outlaw downloading illegal copies of content. Under the current legislation, only uploading such copies is forbidden (earlier chosaq coverage).

The rationale behind this move is the same pro-regulation argument Japan’s content industry has been repeating over and over again. From a recent Nikkei BP article:

In the meeting, Hidetoshi Haeno, senior director of the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ), and Naotaka Katyou, a member of the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan Inc, strongly supported the reexamination by saying the following comments.

“The business of record companies is stuck in a dead end. It’s spine-chilling.” “When a movie is uploaded to a video-sharing Website, they applaud it. They look like the people who acclaim Nezumi Kozou (a heroic thief like Robin Hood), but filmmakers are not evil governors or unscrupulous merchants.”

Also, Reijirou Koroku, the chairperson of the Japan Federation of Authors and Composers Associations (FCA), said, “In view of all the copyrights, they do not have enough protection yet. Right holders [have] been too silent until now.”

Several people have raised questions regarding this disturbing development. Ikeda Nobuo, for instance, has suggested that the RIAJ should substantiate its claim that filesharing is hurting the music industry more than it can benefit from it with actual data. He also points out that the proposed legislation will have an “atrophying effect” on society (translated quote taken from a Global Voices article):

It seems that, hearing of the “outlawing of downloads”, corporations fussy about compliance will block access to [services such as] YouTube from the office. As new business markets atrophy, new businesses will then also stop appearing.

Other commenters have pointed out issues with the “download” terminology: “[A] user cannot determine whether a file is illegal before they actually download it, and even once the file is downloaded, such identification remains difficult.” In addition, there is unclarity about whether the proposed legislation only targets “downloading” or also includes “streaming.”

Another problematic issue is the idea to give “legal” sites a “mark” indicating they are OK. The reverse effect of issuing such a mark is that all sites without mark are considered to be “illegal.” More in this ITMedia article.

My personal take on these developments… When I attended a public discussion on filesharing at the Ministry of Culture a couple of years ago, I remember certain committee members suggesting to outlaw not only illegal content uploads, but include downloads too—at the time, this proposal met quite a bit of resistance from other members in the committee (also see this 2005 ITMedia article). In the meantime, YouTube and other content publishing sites have bloomed and have further undermined the established players’ control—therefor, the content industry’s call to regulate these sites more has become louder and of course, Japan’s broken and industry-serving governmental institutions are listening to it…

On YouTube JP and the Japanese entertainment biz

Very interesting news last week: YouTube Japan has officially launched, incl. six partnerships with major Japanese tech and content producers. From Japan Economy News & Blog:

Included in those business partnerships are satellite broadcaster Sky PerfecTV, social networking giant Mixi, Yoshimoto Kogyo, animator GDH, and Casio. Casio intends to build cameras specially-made for creating content that can be uploaded directly to You Tube [sic].

This is a killer move for Mixi, and a very interesting step in thus far rather undiscovered terrain for Casio. (Lesson for Sony: increasing compatibility is also an option if you want a piece of the video sharing cake; you don’t have to buy or create a complete video sharing site for that.)

But of course, not everybody’s happy. A coalition of Japanese television, music and film companies has expressed its anger about YouTube’s undertakings and even asked to “reset the service.”

Of course the industry’s anger with anything disruptive is nothing new. A quick roundup about its stance with regard to YouTube:

  • 2006-10: JASRAC demands YouTube to take down 30,000 allegedly infringing clips; YouTube complies. It is the first time YouTube takes down so many videos in one swoop.
  • 2006-12: JASRAC sends a letter to YouTube asking it, among other things, to proactively check for infringements and show copyright warnings in Japanese.
  • 2007-01: JASRAC announces it wants a centralized “portal site” for rights information, so as to easily identify the author(s) of a work and facilitate licensing. Although this sounds good in theory, such a system would obviously strengthen JASRAC’s case for a first-ask-then-upload model. As cherry on the cake, JASRAC demands 20 years of extra protection for copyrighted works in exchange for being so benevolent (cfr. its announced “portal site”).
  • 2007-02: YouTube shows Japanese copyright warnings to Japanese YouTube users.
  • 2007-08: a few months after a Japanese YouTube UI was released, YouTube Japan officially launches.

So, who’s gonna win this fight? My bet is on the companies that have signed a deal with YouTube, or otherwise not discourage sharing of the media they produce.

JASRAC & co. link copyright management consolidation plans to term extension

For the last half year or so, Japanese rights groups have been pushing for a 20 year extension of the current life+50y protection term of copyrighted works (previous coverage: 1, 2, 3). In September, the Daily Yomiuri reported that a committee of the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry was looking into a registration system to facilitate the online distribution of previously aired television programs, while also suggesting the protection term for copyrighted works should be extended.

In the meantime, a couple of months have passed—JASRAC has sent its Notice & Takedown request to YouTube and requested it to proactively check for copyright infringements before uploaded content appears online… And last week, CNET Japan reported that JASRAC is now also pushing for a centralized “portal site” for rights information, so as to easily identify the author(s) of a work and facilitate licensing. In addition, there are plans to streamline the currently cumbersome procedures for creating derivatives of works of which the author is unknown.

Facilitating licensing procedures sounds like a good idea (*), but JASRAC and other rights groups want something in exchange: 20 years of extra protection. The rights groups point out that’s a fair deal (translated quote from CNET): “This is not just a call for an extension of the copyright protection term, but the goal is a situation where you can easily get a license for a work, and use it immediately.”

It doesn’t need to be said that a 20 year copyright extension goes against the very goal of the copyright system, but there are also other serious problems with the deal that is proposed here:

  1. There is no guarantee that this database or portal site is ever going to be realized. A term extension is law, while the promise of a consolidated copyright system completely depends on the will and participation of various rights groups.
  2. Although JASRAC and the other rights groups project easy licensing of copyright works, there is nothing that prevents them from not granting licenses to interested parties. Actually, if we look at how the music labels have systematically denied licenses to chaku-uta distributors other than their own Label Mobile venture, I’m far from optimistic.
  3. The biggest problem however is that the portal site and term extension plans are being represented as a give-and-take operation, while it is actually a common-sense-and-take one. Making licensing procedures more flexible and open should simply be a sound business move in an increasingly turbulent content market. The conservative and opaque Japanese content biz however sees this as a monopoly-undermining and thus very scary development — so scary, that they demand a compensation in the form of 20 years extra protection…

To be continued.

(*) … although it further solidifies JASRAC’s first-ask-then-upload mantra, and sidesteps possibly more productive collective blanket licensing scenarios.

The push for longer copyright protection: summary

News: Sixteen Japanese copyright associations (including JASRAC, RIAJ et al.) recently issued a public statement demanding a longer copyright protection term: life plus 70 years instead of the current life plus 50 years.

Arguments: none, other than that it will allow them (or actually, their future heirs) to squeeze more money out of their uniquely crafted works.

Picture 1: the fun press release decor (cache)

Picture 2: the sad look (cache) of somebody whose works are only protected for life plus 50 years… Now that is what the “free culture” movement is missing: drama! Note: on a similar event two years ago, manga author Matsumoto Reiji (pictured here) even suggested that a protection term of life plus 120 years was more appropriate (!).

A dangerous deal: compulsory registration for broadcasts + longer protection

There’s quite a bit going on in the Japanese TV broadcasting landscape lately — I already covered the (still ongoing) push for less a less restrictive broadcast flag, but there is more: according to the Daily Yomiuri, “[t]he Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry is considering introducing a system to facilitate the online distribution of previously aired television programs by simplifying copyright license procedures.” The idea is to “establish a new system requiring people to register themselves for copyrights and allow distributors to carry out the online distribution of past programming without having to obtain permission from those who do not register.” Sounds like a good idea and an improvement over the current situation, where permission from all parties involved is required in order to make a program available on the net — an unnecessarily strict rule that prevents any broadcasted content from being featured online legally, as it’s usually impossible to contact everybody involved.

I’m not sure what sparked the interest in changing the current system — one answer might be “YouTube,” which is very popular in Japan and shows the clear interest in quick-n-dirty online TV content (this in contrast to the relatively low interest in DTV, by the way). Another answer however is possible too: according to the same Yomiuri article, the committee in charge, “a panel tasked with studying how to develop universal Internet access in Japan,” also “proposes extending the period of copyright protection from the current 50 years after the death of rights’ holders to 80 years.” Needless to say, there is probably some “balance” talk involved here — you can already hear the broadcasters say something along the lines of: “if you make registration compulsory, that’s fine, but then we want longer protection.” So, worst case scenario: the broadcasters register all their copyrights, refuse to license it to any web-based TV distributors, and Japan is stuck with a protection term of 80 years for all works (after first broadcast / after the author’s death / etc.). Also note that “80 years” is more than the “70 years” review previously called for.

Japan to extend posthumous copyright term to 70 years?

This one’s just in… and currently only available in Yomiuri flavor (Japanese version): a group of influential arts and cultural organizations (including JASRAC) is pushing for an 20-year extension of the posthumous protection the current copyright law grants — from 50 to 70 years, that is. Apparently, they’re serious about it, as there are plans to “submit a joint statement about the issue to the Cultural Affairs Agency by the end of September.” The Cultural Affairs Agency then will “seek opinions in fiscal 2007 from an advisory panel to the director general of the agency with the aim of revising the Copyright Law.”

Quotes:

Observers have pointed out the government needs to extend the copyright protection period for intellectual property to include such items because literature and photographs as the government has advocated Japan be a nation strong in intellectual property rights.

To the Japanese government: see what happens when you promote pompous terms as 「知的財産立国」 (a nation built on intellectual property)? Indeed, it opens the door for even more restrictions and regulations. Thank you very much.

Another said it was disgraceful that the duration of copyright protection for works that are protected for 70 years in the United States and Europe is still 50 years in Japan.

Playing the emo-card, hmm.

Writer Masahiro Mita, vice director of the Japan Writers’ Association, said Japanese literature could be translated in other languages in Japan without the author’s permission if the copyright protection period for the works is 50 years in Japan, even though the duration is valid for 70 years in the United States and the European Union.

Obviously, he forgets to say that it also works the other way around: foreign works can be translated into Japanese without the author’s (or better: his heirs’) permission after 50 years. How can this be a bad thing for Japan?

[Masahiro Mita] added the nation might appear to have fallen behind on the copyright issue.

And as the words “Japan” and “fallen behind” cannot possibly be used in the same sentence…

FFWD 2007

A quick look at the copyright related developments I see (or don’t see) happening in 2007. My predictions, in no particular order:

  • We’ll see more experiments with DRM-free major label music in the line of Yahoo Music’s efforts, but a full switch to DRM-free music distribution will not happen in 2007. And no, I don’t see Amazon’s rumored music store project turning the tide.
  • The Zune’s sharing feature will be incorporated in other music players, but in a much more interesting fashion. That means we’ll see devices with uncrippled wifi-support, allowing for unlimited (and possibly even cross-device) sharing.
  • The content industry (esp. in Japan) will continue pushing HD broadcasting and formats, while ignoring what most people actually want: instant, lightweight, malleable, shareable and mashable media à la YouTube and its more open variants.
  • The chaku-uta business won’t go away, but sales will slow down as more and more customers find out they’ll have to purchase all their media again when they switch to their second or third 3G handset.
  • One Japanese mobile carrier (SoftBank?) will start offering a cellphone with real MP3 support. AU and DoCoMo will try to ignore this development and stick to their DRM-encumbered, if-you’re-lucky-MP4-enabled handsets instead.
  • Japan will extend the term of protection for music and literary works from 50 to 70 years. Alas.
  • Once the time is there to start purchasing Vista licenses, the Japanese government will announce it is thinking about switching to Linux, which, as I’ve argued before, is just a negotiation tactic.

And what do you think?

Some DRM news from the NHK Open House 2005 exhibition

Just as last year, I went to NHK Open House, where NHK was showing off its latest progress in the realm of DTV. Some observations:

  • As expected, the Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting for Handheld Receivers corner featured Vodafone’s recently announced DTV cell phone, as well as an older AU prototype (action pictures). I was told none of both is capable of recording television programs, so the DRM I wondered about is not at issue (yet).
  • Last year, there was a lot to do about content protection and advanced CAS; this year however, the DRM section was only represented in a much smaller booth about DTV home servers that can be used to transfer programs to external devices, such as DoCoMo’s OnQ prototype. The OnQ has DRM on board, but the guy in the booth couldn’t give me any details.
  • Also in the DTV home servers section, a new kid on the block (at least to my ears): the Digital Certificate System for Educational Contents, which will permit less restricted use of DTV content in educational contexts. Apparently they slowly start to understand that copy-once or no-copy regimes are way too restrictive and cut into uses that would otherwise be allowed under the limitations on rights provision of the Japanese copyright law. Not to give you any false hopes though, because on the same page, they also mention a new system of “Digital Watermarks for Streaming Data”.
  • And then a last thing: when I asked an NHK employee if it was true that DTV wasn’t really taking off in Japan, I got a confirming nod; the person in question also told me they will probably postpone the date (currently 2011) for pulling the analog plug…

Copyright Forum idiocy

It seems like last weeks Copyright Forum (Tokyo) was a lot of fun. This Internet Watch article sheds a light on what was discussed by members of JASRAC, the RIAJ, ACCS and other author’s rights groups.

Lessons learnt:

  • The upcoming reverse import ban bill is awesome.
  • The copyright protection term has to be extended as much as possible.
  • The public domain is evil.
  • Computers are recording devices and there is thus no reason to exclude them from the compensations that have to be paid when buying e.g. a video recorder.
  • We need more rules and more restrictions in order to protect and let people enjoy culture.
  • Forking more cash to the content industry is a good thing.

Heh.

To ease the pain, a quote from David Weinberger’s upcoming speech for the World Economic Forum:

[…] In making a work public, artists enter into partnership with their audience. The work succeeds insofar as the audience makes it their own, takes it up, understands it within their own unpredictable circumstances. It leaves the artist’s hands and enters our lives. And that’s not a betrayal of the work. That’s its success. It succeeds insofar as we hum it, quote it, appropriate it so thoroughly that we no longer remember where the phrase came from. That’s artistic success, although it’s a branding failure.

(Via Copy & copyright diary + Boingboing)

PD Classic’s DVDed public domain movies

According to this FujiSankei Business article (found via 陸這記), the Japanese company PD Classic (ピーディー・クラシック) will start selling DVDs of public domain movies for 380 Yen a piece. That is, movies that were produced before January 1st 1954; movies made after that date enjoy (?) a 70 year protection term, which means that no movies will enter the public domain in Japan in the following 20 years.

All in all, this is a welcome evolution (works are digitized and thus preserved), although there are some downsides:

  • To cover the costs of creating these DVDs, PD Classic does not only charge 380 Yen per DVD (nothing against that), but it also adds commercials before the movie.
  • Worse than that, though, is the fact that DVDs are copy protected media. Although circumvention is easy (and the tools for it widely available), it is legally not allowed. Circumventing the DVD’s copy protection mechanism in order to make a copy of the public domain video you bought is thus not allowed.

Other than that, a welcome development.