Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC) just won a case against the karaoke bars and is now going after clubs.
CHANGING ITS TUNE: It's closing time

"I thought it was a new kind of fraud," said Naoki Kasugai, who runs Daytrip, a nightclub that offers live music in Nagoya. He received a letter from JASRAC in summer 2003 along with an invoice for a monthly charge of 28,350 yen in copyright fees, covering the entire time his bar has been open since 1997. It totaled a whopping 2.32 million yen.

Kasugai was shocked and puzzled. He had never heard from JASRAC before. He figured someone was trying to con him.

But after receiving a second invoice from JASRAC, he called to find out what was going on.

A JASRAC official came by in person to explain: "The bands you hire have likely played covers of songs by other composers. We want you to pay the copyright fees on those songs."

"How many cover songs does this account for?" asked Kasugai.

"We don't know how many copyrighted songs were played here," the official replied. "So we are not charging for each of them. Instead, we are charging on a monthly basis."


But JASRAC is ready to rock and roll, even resorting to court battles.

"Lawsuits in themselves are an effective way to spread our message," a JASRAC official says.

Lawsuits as a communication form seems like a common practice in this industry these days...


That's soo weird. I thought you could do covers without legal repercussion. Doesn't Japan have any fair-use laws?

Even if you had to pay these JASRAC fees, how would they pass this money onto the Authors, Composers and Publishers, if they don't even know what songs were played?

Sounds like a bunch of union-types, scheming from both ends, the "infringers" and the "artists."

And shit, of course the lawsuits are effective; that's the sole place where copyright has any meaning!

Yes you can do covers, but you have to pay royalty fee. There is no fair-use law in EU like there is in USA, so sampling is pretty much illegal here. That's also why most online music sellers won't stream samples of music to EU countries, bourse they would have to pay for it.

In Finland reality has been for like 20 years that if you play music or radio on public places (restaurants, clubs, shops and even taxis!) you have to pay mothly fee to Teosto, Finnish copyright society. Fee is based on your type of business and your business space (square meters).

Ofcourse there are good things in this. Finland for example is such a small country and record sales are so low that it's almost impossible to make a living with music, so these fees that Teosto collect make a noticeable bonus to composers income.

... but as a musician using sampling, promoting CC, using Soulseek AND enjoying collected royalties from Teosto I feel bit confussed :)

Welcome to our world Japan!

Fonfused or inbetween that is -

...and Rui; those montly fees are given to composers and artists as an approximited ratio, meaning more your tunes play in radio and are automatically reported to Teosto (or JASRAC) better ratio you get when these "generally collected" fees are paid to Teosto (or JASRAC .etc) members.

I don't know about these days, but JASRAC used to let people know when they would come in and "audit" so that they could be sure to play the correct songs during the "audit" to provide the "fair" distribution of royalties to the proper artists.

Well, first of all, Fair Use does not cover any kind of public performance. There are similar industry groups in the USA that monitor what is played in bars.

Secondly there is the "dancehall" theory of contributory and vicarious copyright infringement. If the proprietor uses music to attract customers who then buy food and drinks, he or she is gaining an economic benefit from playing the music. The music is copyrighted and so is the perfomance when the music is prerecorded. Therefore payment is due to the holders of both copyrights. Because of the compulsary license, they have to let you play the music, but you have to pay for playing it.

As said above, "Fair Use" has nothing to do with this. Copyright covers copying, distribution, display and performance and also derivative works. That last means even if you play the music in a unique way, never done before, it's still the same tune and you still have to pay a royalty.

On the notion of filing lawsuits as a way to get the message out: Sometimes they leave you no choice. When they ignore not just your letters, but those from your lawyers, then you have to file or forget it. Naturally they hope for the last. Some of us will do that, as I did in July.

Here is a link to the complaint

Francis, Ah, I was always under the impression that the bands I heard doing covers were not being charged for performing those songs. It could be that the venues were so small that they never came under the scrutiny of the people that represent the artists' work they were performing...

Thanks for the info.

I'm also a playwright. You need staged readings as part of the development process, but I assure you none happen without the author's permission. A lot of bar bands do slip under the radar, but the best ones play their own music, not someone else's. When they play something that is already out there, they are legally obligated to pay a royalty. They usually don't until someone tells them they have to. Such is life.

The article of Asahi is imperfection.
Asahi did not write about Jasrac fee-system.
Why Kasugai live-spot owner got angry?
His live-spot do not use Jasrac-tunes. Or very few rate.
But,Jasrac said him to pay in the same condition full use.
Jasrac say to many spots there are a possibility to play Jasrac-tunes in your spot.
Jasrac is thinking owners must prove NOT to use Jasrac-tunes.

The American TV show called "Soul Train" was shown on japanese television.
Can anyone tell if if they know of a collector in Japan who might have this on VHS or dvd. Could you give me any leads to Japanese collector websites. I would like to purchase them.

Derrick Browning

Soul Train was originally shown in Japan many years ago sponsored by "Jun" and imported by a friend of mine. Later, my late mother made contact with them again and negotiated the rights with Don C. on behalf of NHK Broadcast Satellite where they were a huge success. The run on NHK was very long and I was involved in continue to renew the contact. There was even an discussion of starting a Soul Train nightclub in Japan at one point.

On the other hand, I don't know where you could legally get your hands on the Japanese versions. The person at NHK who was in charge of this as well as my mother have both passed away and I've lost touch with Don.

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