The Amendment Bill of the Japanese Copyright Act was cleared by the House of Representatives on 12 May 2009 and approved by the Upper House of Parliament on 12 June 2009.

This Bill has been under discussion by the committee under the Cultural Affairs Agency for about two years. The committee pointed out that there were a number of social problems under the present copyright act. The main one is that Japanese internet business trails behind other foreign countries. Secondly, the amount of unauthorized distribution in Japan is higher than the number of legitimate sales. This revision aims to solve such problems. The effective date was 1 January 2010.

KEY FEATURES OF REVISIONS

The main purpose of the revisions is facilitating the use of copyright works via the internet. The following acts are deemed legal without permission of the copyright owner:

  1. copying for conducting an internet search service;
  2. using copyright works, where the owner is unknown, on the internet by getting the approval of the chief of the Cultural Affairs Agency;
  3. computerisation of documents stored in National Diet Library;
  4. posting pictures of works of art, etc for sale on internet;
  5. copying for information analysis and research;
  6. copying for efficient data transmission; and
  7. necessary copying for use of electronic devices.

For preventing the distribution of counterfeit goods, the following two acts are deemed as infringing acts:

  1. offering pirated products on the internet while being aware of the pirated facts; and
  2. copying music and video data via unauthorised distribution while being aware of illegal, even private copying.

FACILITATING USE OF COPYRIGHT WORKS VIA THE INTERNET

Copy for conducting an internet search service

According to the committee, copying data in a search engine usually does not conflict with the interests of the copyright owner. However, it is almost impossible for internet search service providers to get prior permission from the copyright owners, because there are a tremendous number of copyright works on the internet. On the other hand, the copyright owner posting a copyright work expects that the copyright work will become the object of an internet search, and implicitly permits the copyright work to be used in an internet search. According to the Amendment Bill, the internet search service provider can copy and send the data as long as there is a necessity for the internet search and providing the search result.

Using copyright works, where the owner is unknown, on internet by getting approval from the chief of the Cultural Affairs Agency

To make it possible where the owner of a work is unknown, the user can seek a decision of the chief of the Cultural Affairs Agency, by depositing compensation money.

Computerisation of documents stored in National Diet Library

The purpose of the National Diet Library is collecting and keeping copyright works and the system of depositing books was introduced in National Diet Library. However, there are risks of loss or damage when lending the original books to the public. According to the Amendment Bill, the digitising and recording of documents stored in the National Diet Library is legal as long as there is a necessity to make it available to the public.

Posting pictures of art for sale on internet

Providing information on products offered is necessary for the seller. However, the posting of a picture of the art is deemed an infringement of copyright. To facilitate sales of the works of art or the picture on the internet, the owner of the work of art or the picture, or the person authorised to sell or lend the work of art or the picture, can copy and provide the work of art or the picture on the internet when such person is going to sell or lend the work of art or the picture.

Copy for information analysis and research

The purpose of information analysis by computer, such like Web information analysis, language analysis, picture and audio data analysis, is not for feeling the expression of copyright works, but for searching the necessary part or extracting ideas for statistics. If the user conducts such analysis, such analysis should not be copyright infringement. According to the Amendment Bill, the recording and translating of data for information analysis by computer is legal.

Copy for efficient data transmission

According to the committee, the technology relating to efficient data transmission, such as caching, storing data in mirror servers, and storing data for filtering is useful for data transmission on the internet and also contributes to the public benefit. Under the present Copyright Act, it is not clear whether copying data according to these technologies is deemed as infringement of copyright or not. In the Amendment Bill, the service provider which conducts a business for providing servers for another person’s transmission, can record data for efficient data transmission.

Necessary copying for using of electronic devices

Copying data incidentally generated by looking and listening to copyright works on the computer is not valuable enough to be covered by copyright infringement. According to the Amendment Bill, where data is received through wired or non-wired transmission, the incidental copying of that data is legal.

PREVENTING DISTRIBUTION OF ANTI-COUNTERFEIT

Offering pirated products on the internet while being aware of the pirated fact

Under the present Copyright Act, the act of distributing, or possessing for the purpose of distributing or exporting as part of a business or possessing for the purpose of exporting as part of a business, objects made by an act infringing copyright by a person who is aware of such infringement, is deemed to be copyright infringement. However, offering products before distribution is not deemed as copyright infringement. Offering pirated products on the internet auction facilitates trading of counterfeit goods. In this Amendment Bill, offering pirated products on the internet by a person who is aware of pirated facts is deemed as copyright infringement. The criminal penalty of imprisonment up to one year a maximum fine of one million yen is imposed.

The new Copyright Act was applied for the first time to a man who offered pirated software programs, Windows 7 ultimate, etc on his website. He was arrested on September 14, 2010.

Copying music and video data via unauthorised distribution while being aware illegal, even private copying

Under the present copyright act, the downloading of music and video data via unauthorised distribution is allowed as long as it is for private use. However, the damages resulting from unauthorised distribution, such as file sharing systems, is seen as more serious. In the Amendment Bill, copying music and video data via unauthorised distribution while being aware it is illegal, is illegal. In contrast to offering physical counterfeit goods, copying music or video content by way of unauthorised distribution does not carry any criminal sanction. However, after the Amendment Bill was passed, the number of file sharing system users decreased from 10.3% (in 2008) to 9.1% (in 2009), according to a survey which was conducted by three associations of copyright owners, Association of Copyright for Computer Software (ACCS), Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ), and Japan and International Motion Picture Copyright Association, Inc (JIMCA).

Based on an article first published in CLSR.