Asian News 5/11

Rights Society Raided

Japan’s Fair Trade Commission raided the offices of the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC) April 23 in a bid to determine whether the organization had an illegal monopoly on music-licensing services for broadcasters.

JASRAC had a legal monopoly on such business transactions Until 2001, when the law was changed and other companies were allowed to collect royalties on behalf of copyright holders in exchange for commissions.

The FTC believes that JASRAC continued to block new companies from providing music-licensing services with the help of blanket contracts the society had concluded with broadcasters.

These contracts allowed JASRAC to collect a fixed percentage of sales as royalties. At present, JASRAC commands 99 percent of the licensing market for broadcasters, which is estimated at about ¥26 billion ($260 million) per year.

These contracts have been in effect since 1979, and the FTC alleges that they effectively discourage broadcasters from doing business with other music licensers. Thus, copyright holders are prevented from using organizations other than JASRAC, which collects more than ¥100 billion in royalties every year.

The most money any single music-licensing firm has collected in a year since the law was changed in 2001 has been about ¥1 billion.


Media Source Fined

The Tokyo District Court ordered freelance music journalist Hiromichi Ugaya to pay ¥1 million in damages to Oricon, the company that compiles Japan’s music charts, April 23.

The magazine had sued Ugaya for stating in an article that Oricon did not readily reveal its methodology for ranking records and artists, and for suggesting that Oricon manipulated chart information to gain favor with certain talent agencies.

The reason the case attracted unusual attention is that Ugaya himself did not write the article, which appeared in Cyzo magazine in 2006. Ugaya was interviewed for the article and quoted in it. Oricon did not sue the writer of the article, Cyzo or its publishing company.

Advocates of press freedom have cited the case as furthering a disturbing trend in which powerful companies or government entities sue sources rather than media outlets as a more effective way of stifling potentially embarrassing revelations or otherwise controlling certain stories in the public eye.

In handing down the ruling, the judge said Ugaya’s remarks were "not acceptable as being true" and that they damaged Oricon’s reputation. He also dismissed Ugaya’s countersuit against Oricon for ¥11 million in damages for violating his freedom of speech. Ugaya has said he will appeal.


Akiko Fulfills NYC Dream

The 58-year-old singer Akiko Wada will fulfill one of her lifelong dreams in September when she performs at New York City’s legendary Apollo Theatre.

Wada, one of Japan’s busiest television personalities – noted for her salty humor, husky voice and candid demeanor – was inspired to become a singer when she heard Ray Charles’ "I Can’t Stop Loving You" as a junior high school student.

In the late 1960s and ’70s she specialized in American soul covers and original Japanese rhythm and blues numbers.

She was one of the first Japanese singers to record in America and use black backup singers.

Ray Charles even honored her by showing up at her 30th-anniversary concert in 1998 as a guest performer. The concert at the Apollo is slated for September 29 and will mark Wada’s 40th year in show business.