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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.

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