Revising Japanese Copyright

The Japanese government is discussing a revision of its copyright law to allow for the collection of usage royalties for music distributed exclusively online.

The law is being changed in line with terms associated with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which has yet to be approved by all member countries. As it stands, usage royalties are charged only for music played on CDs and other physical media.

The revision will extend protection to music distributed online in digital form. Japanese broadcasters pay royalties on music used on TV and radio as a lump sum to the Recording Industry Association of Japan, which then distributes the fees to record companies. Royalty amounts are determined by how many times a song is played and for how long and usually amount to only several yen per instance.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, in fiscal 2014 the total amount paid by broadcasters to record companies was 6.92 billion yen ($62.2 million). Singers and performers receive royalties through the Japan Council of Performers Rights and Performing Arts Organizations (Geidankyo).

Broadcasters are charged the same royalty amount for a song, regardless of how the song was purchased in the first place, but record companies have no legal means of charging royalties for music distributed exclusively online.

Such systems do exist in Europe and the U.S. since 46 percent of music is now distributed online. With more music being sold online in Japan, the government felt it had to make a provision for the development.