Center for Advanced Study & Research on Innovation Policy


CASRIP Newsletter - Winter 1997, Volume 4, Issue 1

Report of Multimedia Subcommittee of the Copyright Committee in Japan

On February 24, 1997 in Japan, a report including recommendations relating to the Japanese copyright system in this advanced information society was brought before the Copyright Committee, and ultimately confirmed by the committee. The report was prepared by the Multimedia Subcommittee of the Copyright Committee. Within the Subcommittee, problems related to copyright in a digitized and networked society since its creation in 1992 were discussed.

Though the report was prepared in response to the new treaties issued by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) last December, it did not address all of the issues raised by the WIPO treaties. According to the report, the remaining issues will continue to be discussed with recommendations expected sometime in the near future. A bill amending the Japanese Copyright Act in accordance with the following recommendations will be submitted to the Japanese Congress later this spring.


(1) Give performers and producers of phonograms the right to transmit by request

Performers and producers of phonograms, unlike authors, have not had the right to transmit by request via a computer network, such as the Internet. However, they are given the right in the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty to make available to the public fixed performances and phonograms. In accordance with this treaty, the Japanese Copyright Act should also provide the right to make such works available; in other words, the right to place such works on networks should be made available.

(2) Add "making available to the public" to "transmission"

In Japan, an author has been provided rights related to transmissions made by request since 1986. Under the current Japanese Copyright Act however, the action of making a copyrighted work available to the public is not a copyright infringement, though a "transmission" itself may be an infringement. The "Right of Communication to the Public" in the WIPO Copyright Treaty covers not only the transmission itself, but also the making available to the public of works in such a way that members of the public may access the works from a place and at a time individually chosen by them. Therefore, it is necessary to add "making a available to the public" to the concept of "transmission" in the Japanese Copyright Act.

(3) Expand the scope of the "wire transmission" of a computer program

Under the current Japanese Copyright Act, the "wire transmission" right excludes transmission by wire telecommunication installations which are located on the same building. The rapid development of LANs (Local Area Networks) recently, however, has created a great disadvantage to copyright owners of computer programs. For example, in one company all employees are able to co-use one copy of a business application software via LAN, incurring only the cost of one software application. To prevent this, the transmission of computer programs in the same building should be included in the scope of the "wire transmission" right.

(4) Clarify the scope of the "broadcasting right" by wireless

In the Japanese Copyright Act, the term "broadcasting" has traditionally represented the concept of wireless transmission to the public. It has not been clear whether the scope of the "broadcasting right" covers wireless transmission by request or not. Because wireless transmissions by request have begun to occur recently, the scope of the "broadcasting right", including the wireless transmission by request, should be clarified. In the WIPO Copyright Treaty, articles covering transmission by request do not distinguish between those made by wire and those made wireless.

Issues for further discussion

(5) Regulation of equipment to defeat copy protection

The current Japanese Copyright Act does not contain any provision covering equipment designed to defeat copy protection. On the other hand, the WIPO treaties provide for member obligations concerning such technological measures. This issue is fraught with controversial problems necessitating further discussion.

- Tomohito Ihara

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