A few weeks ago, I wrote about a future amendment of the copyright law, which would increase the prices for book rental, and possibly open the door for asking fees for library materials, too. A sad article in last Saturday’s Daily Yomiuri can be seen as a confirmation of this tendency: Libraries told ‘stop lending’.
Quoting a few paragraphs, that quite well define the tone of the discussion held between authors organizations and libraries:
The prolonged economic slump lies behind the sluggish book sales, but authors organizations and publishing houses feel public libraries are becoming a problem, too.
They also blame second-hand book stores that are selling relatively new used books, as well as coffee shops with libraries of comic books, which are increasing rapidly.
In last autumn’s symposium titled “Debate Between Authors and Libraries,” authors said that lending a large number of new books would lead to a violation of their copyrights.
But public libraries refuted this claim, saying that lending out new books would increase the number of readers and the public service did not undermine book sales.
Sadly enough, this is clearly another example of exaggerated and derailed author-centrism, mystifying the figure and role of the author as a transcendent genius, creating a masterpiece out of thin air. Needless to say that this is naive. Authors collect information from a wide range of sources, recombine and mix them and thus create something new. The authors from the future will do so, too. Future publications can only be assured if people have easy access to information. Hence, curtailing the availability of library materials is certainly not the way to go.
On top of that, and quoting the last paragraph of the abovementioned article,
(u)nderstanding the needs of readers also will be indispensable in discussing this issue. It is important not only to look to the creation-by-the-author side of the publishing story, but also to its perception-by-the-public side, which deserves an equal (or even a bigger) share of attention, as the main goal of the (Japanese) copyright law is a public one: “to contribute to the development of culture” (Art. 1 Japanese Copyright Law).
A follow-up of my earlier book lending entry: Japan’s Council for Cultural Affairs (文化審議会) has compiled a report promoting the introduction of a right of rental for books and magazines (貸与権) and an intensification of the penal provisions for copyright infringements (著作権侵害の罰則強化), that is, pushing up the limit of imprisonment from three to five years and the maximum fine from three million ¥ up to five million ¥. The paper also introduces the earlier mentioned idea of a ‘right of import for recordings’ (逆輸入権). Quite scary developments, all backed by a deeply rooted philosophy of author-centrism and sold as inevitable in the context of the information society.
Last week, the Japanese Ministry of Culture announced plans for an amendment of the copyright law, in order to introduce a system of fees for the lending of books, in the same way as for CD and video rental. An article over at Sankei Web cites the 貸与権連絡協議会, which is in favor of the amendment:
This means as much as:
As the ways of using publications have undergone a lot of changes, a royalty-only system is unfair. We want book lending compensations for manga authors and novelists. The new system will increase the price of publications sold to rental shops with 200 or 300%, a change that will be reflected in the price book borrowers will have to pay.
And it won’t stop here; the same article quotes the Ministry of Culture stating that after the introduction of this amendment (which has rental shops as its primary target), the discussion about asking fees for library materials is open.
It is sad to see that, while there are ongoing efforts to widen the Japanese commons, the Japanese Ministry of Culture seems to move in the direction of copyright extremism and a curtailment of the availability of culture.
To be continued.
On January 1st, 2005, both the controversial right of import for recordings and the right of rental for books and magazines came into effect. As noted on Copy & Copyright Diary, the changes are not reflected yet on the CRIC website, meaning that there is no English translation available for now.
So far, the scope or the right of import for recordings is unclear—2005 will show how far it reaches. As for the right of rental for books and magazines, the first results are in: about a month ago, Benli blog reported that the yet to be launched (?) Rental Right Management Center (貸与権管理センター) that serves as an intermediary between the rental shops and the authors and publishers, will not allow any rentals during a period of three weeks after publication and thereafter charge book rental shops a fee of 280 Yen per volume. The author gets 80 Yen, the rest goes to the Center itself, the publisher, etc. In a reaction to this development, Book-Off, one of Japan’s biggest retailers of second-hand books, CDs and videos, decided to close its book rental business, thereby affecting more than 200 shops throughout Japan.
By the way, that’s not all: the Sankei Web article mentioned above quotes a member of the Mystery Writers of Japan group, who wants the right of rental to be expanded to public libraries. (I wrote about this before.)
Unfortunate developments, to say the least.
(Via Copy & Copyright Diary)