Ownership and transfer

Eligible owners

Who is the owner of a copyrighted work?

The author of a copyrighted work is its owner. Since copyright may be transferred, the assignee may become the owner of the work; this excludes moral rights, which may not be transferred.

Exemptions to this principle are authorship of a work made by an employee (see question 23) and authorship of a cinematographic work.

Authorship of a cinematographic work shall be attributed to those who, by taking charge of producing, directing, filming, art direction, etc, have creatively contributed to the creation of such cinematographic work as a whole, with the exception of authors of novels, play and film scripts, music or other works adapted or reproduced in such a cinematographic work.

Employee and contractor work

May an employer own a copyrighted work made by an employee?

Yes. With the exception of computer programs, the authorship of a work that, on the initiative of a juridical person (such as a company) or other employers, is made by an employee in the course of the performance of his or her duties in connection with the employer’s business and is made public by the employer as a work under its own name, shall be attributed to the employer, unless there are contract or work regulations that provide that the work should be attributed to the employee who created the work. As for computer programs, the authorship of a computer program work that, on the initiative of a juridical person (such as a company) or other employers, is made by an employee in the course of his or her duties in connection with the employer’s business, shall be attributed to the employer unless otherwise stipulated by contract, work regulations or the like at the time of the making of the work.

May a hiring party own a copyrighted work made by an independent contractor?

Yes. Such ownership must be expressly agreed to. Although it is not strictly necessary to have a written agreement, it is customary to have one in order to prevent copyright disputes.

Joint and collective ownership

May a copyrighted work be co-owned?

Yes. A co-holder of a copyright in a work of joint authorship or of any other co-owned copyright may not transfer or pledge his or her share without the consent of the other co-holders.

Transfer of rights

May rights be transferred?



May rights be licensed?


Are there compulsory licences? What are they?

Yes. When, despite reasonable efforts, it is not possible to contact the copyright holder because his or her identity is unknown or for other reasons, then it shall be possible to exploit, under authority of a ruling for compulsory licence issued by the ACA and upon depositing, for the benefit of the copyright holder, compensation of the amount fixed by the Commissioner.

Are licences administered by performing rights societies? How?

Yes. Japanese performing rights societies include the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC), the Japan Writers’ Association, the Writers Guild of Japan, and the Japan Writers Guild.

Owners of copyrighted works may either entrust administration of their copyright to the entity of their choice, or manage their rights personally in whole or in part. If a copyright owner chooses to entrust his or her copyright to an administrator, this entity and the owner will execute an entrustment agreement.


Is there any provision for the termination of transfers of rights?



Can documents evidencing transfers and other transactions be recorded with a government agency?

If the transfer and other transactions are registered, yes. The ACA or SOFTIC requires such documents in order to register the transfer or transaction and to summarise the fact in the registration.