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The expansion of the levy system in Japan

Recently, there has been a lot of fuss in Europe about levies on portable music players and possibly also on other types of devices capable of storing music. It seems that there is a similar move going on in Japan: JASRAC and a number of other interest groups are pushing for an extension of the levy system to HDD based music players. According to a recent ITmedia article (page 2), the argument used is that the act of copying songs to your iPod is basically the same as copying them to an MD (which is already subject to the levy system). If the analogy is accepted, HDD music players will become more expensive, although it is not clear how much: as far as I know, there is no mention of a clear price per memory unit yet.

One of the problems with this evolution is that ultimately, the levy system might be expanded to cover all kinds of HDD powered devices, including computers, etc. A quote from an opinion brief of the several interest groups (referenced in the same ITmedia article) shows this is not an unlikely scenario:

「HDDプレーヤーなども制度の対象にすべき。PC内蔵のHDDや外付けHDD、データ用CD-R/RWなどこれまで汎用機器とされてきた製品も対象に含めるべき」

Quick translation: HDD players should be subject to the [levy] system. [Furthermore,] multi-purpose products such as PC hard disk drives, external HDDs, CD-R/RW used for data, etc. should [also] be covered [by the levy system].

Some further investigations on the website of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology turned up another (?), similar opinion brief filed by JASRAC and co, including a very interesting data sheet. A translation of the charts:

The evolution of the compensation for private copying

  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
compensation on devices (in k ¥) 57,547 107,684 222,092 609,302 1,091,523
compensation on recordable media (in k ¥) 4,428 20,799 63,359 228,394 379,206
total (in k ¥) 61,975 128,483 285,451 837,697 1,470,730

Evolutions in the number of (recording) equipment sold and (related) compensations

  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
compensation on devices (in k ¥) 57,547 107,684 222,092 609,302 1,091,523
number of devices sold 55,238 104,714 237,114 679,534 2,332,294
average compensation price per device (in ¥) 1,041.80 1,028.36 936.65 896.65 468.00

Evolutions in the number of recordable media sold and (related) compensations

  2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
compensation on recordable media (in k ¥) 4,428 20,799 63,359 228,394 379,206
number of recordable media sold 342,886 1,619,341 7,363,517 28,918,421 73,202,529
average compensation price per recordable media unit (in ¥) 12.91 12.84 8.6 7.9 5.18

So, if I understand it right, the Japanese levy business is soaring: the amount of compensation per device is less than half of what people used to pay five years ago, but this hasn’t decreased the revenue stream—in 2000, the income of levies on electronic devices and recordable media was 61,975,000 Yen; in 2004, it was 1,470,730,000 Yen (!!). Hence, the recording industry’s recent push for an expansion of the levy system can only be understood as a quest for even more money and control over me2me uses.

Note: page 2 of the ITmedia article referenced above mentions a completely different set of numbers and even points out an opposite tendency: it says that levy revenues are going down and points to the iPod replacing MD players as one of the reasons. Can somebody explain why this is the case? Where did they get their data from?

Update 2005-10-17: it seems these numbers are not correct – see the last paragraph of this entry for more info.

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