Just As US Finally Realizes Copyright Terms May Be Too Long, Japan Looks To Make Them Longer

from the welfare-for-musicians dept

As even the more traditional maximalists in the US have started to admit that copyright terms are too long, it appears some are still leaning in the opposite direction. Maira Sutton points us to the news that Japan is now looking to retroactively lengthen copyright terms from life plus 50 years to life plus 70 years. Of course, we’ve gone over this many times before. There simply is no legitimate rationale for such a thing. We’re told that the purpose of locking up the public domain behind a government granted monopoly like copyright is to give the creator an extra incentive to create, and to keep the work away from the public domain for a limited period of time. If the creation was made under the rules at the time, then clearly the incentive was enough. To go back and retroactively change the bargain between the creator and the public is to unilaterally change the terms of the deal by flat out taking away the public’s right to those works.

The only way in which retroactive copyright term extension makes sense is if copyright is a welfare system for creators, in which the public is taxed to support the estates of wealthy content creators. And, yes, it is wealthy content creators (or, rather, their children and grandchildren) who are the beneficiaries of such extensions, along with the major multinational corporations who hold most of those copyrights. Studies have shown that the overwhelming majority of beneficiaries of extending copyright are not actual content creators, and certainly not “poor” content creators, but “incumbent holders of major back-catalogues, be they record companies, ageing rock stars or, increasingly, artists’ estates.” The “poor artists” who are often cited in support of such extensions are not even in the picture, because the works of poor artists who died 50 years ago are not making much money today. It’s the huge rockstars’ and their works that are still making money today.

So why is Japan trying to tax the public, to take away their rights, all to support the giant record labels and the grandchildren of rock stars?

Of course, this is hardly the first time this debate has come up. We wrote about a similar plan in Japan nearly six years ago, which went nowhere. Hopefully, more sensible copyright experts in Japan prevail. Either way, the fact that Japan is now a big part of the TPP, and wants to help “lead” the discussions to finalize that agreement should be seen as worrying — since it may seek to put in clauses that would limit the abilities of countries like the US to roll back copyright terms.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Just As US Finally Realizes Copyright Terms May Be Too Long, Japan Looks To Make Them Longer”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Yeah, people have forgotten that the creative process is every bit as powered by the ability to use other’s works without permission just as it is by the temporary ability to stop others from reusing works without permission.

I could cite many an example where innovation started up again after a patent expired and examples of hollywood/disney/game studioe creating amazing things by resuing works that either were the copyright expired/there never was a copyrigth because the work existed before copyright or basing themselves in historical event not subject to copyright

Further, I could cite many works that were only preserved thanks to the “pirates” extracting them from the rotting casings and aciving them online

Prashanth (profile) says:

Re: Re: Obvious?

I think it has to do more with their general large corporations (and not necessarily with just Sony or Nintendo in particular). I’ve seen here that Japan and [South] Korea seem to be two countries that treat their corporations even more favorably than the US, and that’s probably because of the historical relations between the respective governments and zaibatsus/chaebols.

Anonymous Coward says:

The thing we should be asking is: “50 years ago from today, what popular culture icons were made in Japan that a large corporate interest would want to protect?”

That’s how you know who is behind this. They could even name their newfound Mickey Curve after it, maybe we should call it “The Gundam Curve”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Looking at history, it was Disney in the US that was the largest pusher for extended copyright, ie the Mickey Mouse Protection Act. Now we have Disney that has been making moves to purchase out the rights to Studio Ghibili. link Maybe it’s just me, but it doesn’t sound like a long shot that it’s just more of the same from a company epitomizes copyright maximalist’s ideals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Even if it was an April’s fools joke, no denying that Disney owns a lot of the distribution rights internationally, and the companies are directly related:
“Many of Ghibli’s works are distributed in Japan by Toho. Internationally, The Walt Disney Company has rights to all of Ghibli’s output that did not have previous international distribution, including the global, non-Japan distribution rights to Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away.[citation needed] As of September 2011, they share North American theatrical rights with GKids while domestic right remain with Disney.[7]”
“On February 1, 2008, Toshio Suzuki stepped down from the position of Studio Ghibli president, which he had held since 2005, and Koji Hoshino (former president of Walt Disney Japan) took over.”

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Nor would I be shocked to see it. The only thing that gives me hope is that they’re a Japanese company and it might be considered offensive to them that a foreign company would take over their finest animation studio.

For some reason I consider Disney to be evil. They used to be a great animation company but now they’re too big. I don’t like it when any one entity has too much influence and wealth.

Anonymous Coward says:

just another example of bone idle bastards getting into government themselves or into bed with with those that are in government and able to instigate their own personal wants being brought into law. almost exactly like things are done in the USA, really. it makes no sense to anyone except the receiver of theses ‘benefits’. no one else gains from it, in fact, everyone else loses as it basically comes from the public. what would have made sense would have been to shorten the terms, to take the ‘meal ticket’ completely off the table!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Uh…, first and foremost, really strange and/or odd bill going to act IS the bureaucracy red tape behind back. Not only Sony, Nintendo and/or JASRAC blah, blah, blah…, add to say Japanese copyright law got some stupid regulation loophole. Most of Japanese musician and composers are boring. Some guys are uphill battle.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Depends on your taste, most of it is boring, another part is downright disturbing and there is some good music coming out.

Like everything else the Japanese over emphasize the “its Japanese so we will do it the Japanese way, Japan is great, Japan is glorious, Japan is the centre of the universe bla bla bla” and so they don’t mind others that much in the artistic sense, they try to make it Japanese. There are hints that things are changing and the old Japanese dudes are dying and so some of the strict cultural barriers are falling and you see some modern approaches that are more universal than “Japanese” but mostly Japanese music is boring, and like in other places 99% is just garbage or Japanese garbage.

Also Japanese law has a different approach to it, 99% of disputes are solved by out of the court schemes, where the focuses is on payment of money to make things go away, if you ever land in a police station the first thing the police will try to do is map your financial resources so they can go and collect from those if need be, they will ask if you have somebody who cares for you, they will ask about bank accounts and so on, they have a real fetish about money over there, if you are a foreigner they will try to get you angry, so they can show you are an abunai gaijin(dangerous foreigner) I think they are trained to do that because they all do and say the exact same things, to the non initiated that may seem racist and it is, the excuse is that foreigner in the past came to Japan and did very bad things, yap they will tell you that stereotype BS every single time, but I digress.

A Japanese legal scholar posted a conjecture about how the Japanese used the legal system and found out that the Japanese is not less sue happy than Americans is just the system works differently and that system makes it difficult to evolve.

Takao Tanase – “The Management of Disputes: Automobile Accident Compensation in Japan.”

The Japanese can pass those laws and probably will pass, the enforcement though will be lax, copyright infringinment is low in Japan, going from 1 figure up to 5 figures maximum but in most cases not passing 3 figures.

The Japanese are also distracted with other issues, every year they hold elections, the rotation on the political scene is just tremendous right now because of the 20 years deflation trend in Japan that is now starting to show very real signs of loss, nobody was believing it when new homes and constructions where popping up everywhere, today in some cities you can see entire rows of stores closed with out of business signs.

So the Japanese are desperate to create some other form of power and they believe like their American counterparts that imaginary property and monopolies will be good, they don’t believe they can compete in hardware or services anymore, this is why governments everywhere will try to sell imaginary property as the economic salvation.

Here is a talk at Stanford done by James D. Wolfensohn.
Former World Bank President: Big Shift Coming

This is how they view the world, a world where they can’t produce cheap hardware, a world where they can’t offer services and so implied they have to do something else and that is to try to extract rents using artificial monopolies.

Governments are in not for the artists, but because copyrights are the tool to keep making money since they don’t know how to do anything else.

Bankers, lawyers and accountants are saying to makers and producers they don’t believe in them.

I am looking beyond a money centered economy.
It is difficult to replace money, because money is what makes people do work, without it personal disagreements rapidly halt the workspace, without it people start having an excuse to tolerate others, but it can be done, one can actually live a comfortable life without money if he is willing to work and actually learn useful skills, this is why I don’t fear the future, whatever that future is, I know I will have something to wear, a roof and food, if only I knew how to drill my own teeth LoL

edinjapan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Japan rant

So AC san, how many times have you been arrested? Did the police in Azabu Jauban or Kita ku work you over with a rubber hose?

Ok, elections are supposed to be held every 4 years for the Lower House and half of the House of Councilors gets changed out every 2 years.

The Prime Minister’s office is like a revolving door due to the ineptness of the people who usually get elected to the post. The only good PM we’ve had was Koizumi and Jun chan washed his hands of the entire mess after serving 2 terms in office.

As for the Popo, many of them would have become yaks if they hadn’t kept their noses clean as kids. Most of them are lazy and useless when it comes to solving crimes.

And should you be caught doing anything bad, act stupid?better yet act like a retard-drool, mutter “Boku, nihongo wakaranai” make a mess in your pants and watch how quickly they let you go.

lastly, things are changing, it’s not a fast change but it’s happening. 20yrs from now large parts of Northern Japan will have reverted to wilderness, ghost towns and isolated farmsteads. The population is crashing and there is going to be a massive die off.

But, in the meantime the government keeps making stupid laws that the common people ignore, the bureaucrats keep on stealing from the public till and posters such as the AC and myself will still have a wife, a couple of kids and a mistress or two on the side.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re:

Newsflash: most artists EVERYWHERE are boring. Japan is currently one of only a few countries which actually has some good ones. Granted that many of their best artists have already gone by the wayside, e.g. YMO, Pizzicato Five, etc. and the others seem to be phoning it in at this point, much like here in America.

I think that copyright is an artifical insurance policy/protection mechanism propped up to give life-support to antiquated ideas and businesses, as opposed to forward-thinking, innovative ones. It’s worth noting that Japan’s largest artistic boom was during their bubble economy through the 80’s and early-to-mid 90’s. They probably feel that they’ve established their culture, e.g. Nintendo’s IPs, Studio Ghibli, anime/manga, J-POP/ROCK, etc., and aren’t going to bring anything new to the table, so they seek to regurgitate the past ad nausea. Haven’t we had our fill of Dragon Ball, Mario and Godzilla?

Same story with us: recycling old movie franchises, comic book characters, music acts from decades-past, etc. Because the media is monopolized by a small handful of mega-corps, there’s hardly any room for an ‘outsider’ (read: anyone outside the establishment) to make a significant cultural impact …and anyone who DOES manage to usually gets bought out at some point. Corporate entities consume our culture and ideas as if some behemoth phantom Pac-Man, then lock it up and throw away the key.


PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If Japanese music were good, people would listen to it. Look at “Gangnam Style”. Or look at anime. Or Kurosawa films. Or Jackie Chan.

If something worth watching or listening to comes out of Asia, people WILL consume it. The fact that even doing the Teen Titans theme song and having their own TV show couldn’t make an act like Puffy Ami Yumi popular in the US means Japanese music really isn’t that good.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Popularity is a poor indicator of artistic quality. I’ll give you an example: Maison Ikkoku. It’s perhaps Rumiko Takahashi’s best work in terms of story and character development, yet pales in comparison to Urusei Yatsura (Lum), Ranma 1/2 and Inu-Yasha in terms of popularity.

Just because Japanese music didn’t take off here doesn’t mean that it’s no good. America isn’t the de-facto deciding factor as to what constitutes quality, which is what you’re implying. As a matter of fact, we tend to be rather close-minded with regards to stuff in foreign languages, unless it has some silly/stupid visual dance or something to accommodate it, e.g. Gangnam Style.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Popularity is a poor indicator of artistic quality.

This. Since this is a pet peeve of mine, I can’t help but beat this horse a little more.

Popularity and artistic quality are mostly independent variables. There is a little overlap in the Venn diagram, but not much.

The most popular things are the things that are the least offensive within a given population, not the things that are the best. So we have vanilla as the most popular flavor, etc. If you do nothing but listen to the most popular music, you will only very rarely hear excellent music. This is true regardless of the culture that produced it.

jlaprise (profile) says:

"There simply is no legitimate rationale for such a thing."

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and I think there may be a legitimate rationale. Draconian copyright laws are a brake on innovation. Continuous improvements in communication technology have catalyzed the acceleration of social and technological change. Most established entities (states & corporations) prefer the status quo over significant change, unless they have knowledge or control over the effect of a change. Given the fluidity of change right now, knowledge and control are hard to come by. Therefore, such entities support the status quo and draconian IP protections.

Essentially, change is scary and scarier for those with a lot to lose.

This brings us to legitimacy which is sort of in the eye of the beholder. We all know people who embrace change and reject change. Slowing down change may be good or bad depending on the point of view.

Carlos Sol?s a.k.a. ArkBlitz (in the rest of the I (profile) says:

Public domain is no longer trustworthy

This is one of the reasons why I avoid to work upon most public domain works: retroactive re-copyrighting. One day, for example, you publish the translation of a work from an author that died, say, 53 years ago, taking care of releasing it solely in the countries where life+50 applies, and not those with life+70 or beyond. The next day, the parliament of a country where you already released the translation declares that copyright is retroactively extended to life+70, and bam! Now you’re a criminal, liable for infringement, most possibly about to be sued for the earnings of your book and then some more, even if the work is already declared as “orphan”. I usually recommend people who do use public domain works in a common basis to use only works that are legally usable in all countries of the world (currently that means life+100, thanks to Mexico and Ivory Coast amogn others), in order to avoid both licensing fragmentation and unexpected retroactive licensing. The alternative is, of course, copyleft and liberal licensing, but even those are liable to retroactive relicensing as well (albeit in a more limited form).

dennis deems (profile) says:

Life plus anything is too long. 14 years was considered ample in a time when proofing, publishing and promoting was laborious, expensive and time-consuming. Now that so much of the tedium can be dispensed with very little cost, two lifetimes is not long enough?? At least they’re no longer even trying to pretend it’s about anything other than holding a death-grip on culture.

John says:

Why can’t we set up a system where:

1. If you want strong copyright protection for your “product” you only get 14 years for your copyright. You can then sue anyone giving it away or selling it. After that 14 years, it enters a public database of public domain items that anyone can use for any reason.

2. If you want 125+ years of copyright that we currently have, you can only sue those who are making copies of it for sale.

The guy who is burning CDs and DVDs in his garage to sell at the swap meet will get slammed, not the kids who hold a Disney party at school. If you bring suit against someone of the second type, you lose all copyright protections to the “product.”

3. Or we could just fix the current system back to the way it was intended: 14 years + 14 years. Nothing more.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The real question is: what system best accomplishes the goal intended for copyright (advancement of the useful arts and sciences)?

The big PR victory of the copyright maximalists is that they have managed to talk about copyright as if it’s purpose was to secure some kind of new property right. It’s not.

Any solutions to the copyright problem have to keep in mind the purpose of copyright. This isn’t a negotiation about how strict the new property rights should be, it’s about the best way to encourage the creation and distribution of culture.

With all that in mind, I’m in favor of #3. Or, at a bare minimum, just doing away with automatic copyrights and requiring registration to secure copyright — that way, there would at least be a method of determining the copyright status for any given work.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...