Japanese Music Collection Society Demands Copyright Fees From Music Schools For Teaching Music

from the getting-schooled dept

A brief review of our past stories about copyright collection societies should paint you a fairly complete picture on how these businesses operate. While they pimp themselves as proxies for content creators to police the known world for unauthorized use of that content, as well as operators working to license the use of that content, instead these companies work as syphons sucking money from both sides. They will be genuinely creative in their attempts to find infringement everywhere, liberally interpreting copyright law and what constitutes requirements for various licenses for things like art and music, while at the same time often being found to feign brain-death when it comes to paying the copyright holders' share for the money they collect.

While the tactics used by collection societies regularly flirt with absurdity, it's not terribly often that they behave in a way that will garner broad disdain. One collection society in Japan, though, has decided to cross that line, unilaterally informing music schools that they must now pay up for daring to teach students how to play music. The schools, it seems, are not taking this lying down, having banded together and planning to sue the collection society.

The music school operators said they planned to file a lawsuit against the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC) with the Tokyo District Court as early as July, a representative told The Japan Times. In February, JASRAC informed several hundred private music school operators it will begin collecting copyright fees for the use of sheet music under its management.

It claims the use of music to teach piano or other instruments infringes on the “right of performance” under Article 22 of the Copyright Law, which stipulates the composer has the exclusive right to perform their work publicly. JASRAC plans to revise its regulations, enabling the organization to collect 2.5 percent of all annual fees charged by the music schools.

You can immediately see what I mean about liberal interpretations of the law. Only in the mind of someone working at a collection group would a private school teaching a student how to play a song constitute a "public performance." For the collection group to suggest that this liberal interpretation entitles it to 2.5% of the gross revenue of a music school is plainly absurd. Japan's exceptions to copyright law do include exceptions for non-profit educational institutions, but these schools appear to be private. Those exception provisions also appear to be more geared to works like educational software than music.

The schools are trying to get the government to fill in this gap.

In response to JASRAC’s move, Yamaha Music Foundation, Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co. and five other musical school operators initially set up a group advocating for the right to educate using musical works without copyright consent. The group, which now has 350 members, has collected over 10,000 signatures demanding a halt to JASRAC’s plan, which it plans to submit to the culture ministry in July.It remains unclear how many companies will join the lawsuit.

“We want the court to confirm that performances at (music) schools do not need JASRAC’s consent,” said a representative for the group.

For it's part, JASRAC points out that there is no definition of a "public performance" in Japanese copyright law. But that likely doesn't mean that JASRAC can simply interpret what a public performance is any way it likes, including in the teaching of a student. Instead, it seems likely that this dispute will give the Japanese government the impetus to flesh out the law. That will ultimately be a good thing, assuming the government doesn't suddenly lose its mind and decide to pretend that educating students is a public performance of music.


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  1. identicon
    My_Name_Here, 19 May 2017 @ 9:54am

    I know this will be hidden, but

    If composers aren't paid when students are being taught to play songs they've already written, why would they write more songs that will simply be performed for free? Masnick doesn't like thinking about these unfortunate truths, because they don't mesh with his piratey worldview.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 10:00am

    The hypocrisy is stunning. How does a group that allegedly exists to promote the interests of musicians justify putting a tax on teaching children how to play music?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 10:05am

    Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    If you're not paid to be wrong, you are a very dedicated hobbiest.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 10:07am

    Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    Every word that flows from your distorted mind just proved to the rest of the world how insane you are. The fact that you probably believe what you are saying is true, is the worst part. Go start your own website if you think other people are so wrong. Spoiler alert, you are the wrong one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 19 May 2017 @ 10:09am

    If I were ever lost alone in the woods, I'd just sing a happy tune.

    Because then I could get directions from the collection society representative demanding payment for the public performance.

    (And yes, it's a public performance if animals hear it.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 10:11am

    "Collection" societies don't own music.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Chris Brand, 19 May 2017 @ 10:17am

    Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    How and where would they be "performed for free" ? A lesson is not a performance, and fees would be payable for any actual performance.

    Plus of course, they *weren't* previously being paid for this, and they *did* compose the works being taught, so that rather disproves your theory...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 10:18am

    Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    And when there are no musicians to play their works, how will composers earn a living?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 10:19am

    Eliminate copyright. It's the only viable option and there are No down sides.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 10:20am

    "banded together", ha, ha! Good pun except I doubt intended, you couldn't resist pointing it out if so.

    But I wish you could find a topic that didn't link copyright with greed. -- Can't be done, I hear you tapping out? -- Well, what about Microsoft products? -- Okay, bad example. -- Anyway, OF COURSE people want to use copyrighted products without paying! Isn't that another form of greed? -- Yes, it is, and worse, asserting that other people must work for free.

    Music could be taught without copyrighted works, therefore, if using any, it's a choice that should be expensed, like buying an instrument. You don't expect koto makers to work for free, do you? Why should these schools be entitled to use intellectual work-products for free? Why are these greedy schools even charging for lessons? HMM? -- Because people have to eat, basically. Should music-writers starve while music-teachers get paid?

    Besides that, PAYING to learn music (rather than the no-cost way my friends did) is a deliberate choice likely intending a career with income resulting, so just tack that on.

    Anyhoo, I figure they'll settle for 1.25%.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 10:21am

    Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    I thought this was a sarcastic at first. So you truly believe the music society should charge public performance rates to schools? I mean if that is the case, why limit it to just music. We should also charge schools a learning tax for every other subject as well. It is only fair.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 10:27am

    Re: "banded together", ha, ha! Good pun except I doubt intended, you couldn't resist pointing it out if so.

    Forgot to mention the counter to "collection society": you are simply assuming none or little will get to artists. That's not in evidence, just YOUR bias.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Ninja (profile), 19 May 2017 @ 10:28am

    Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    Not sure if serious or satire. Well played, sir!

    Still, one could point to a few thousand years of free culture before copyright came to answer your question, satire or not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 19 May 2017 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re: "banded together", ha, ha! Good pun except I doubt intended, you couldn't resist pointing it out if so.

    ...counter to "collection society": you are simply assuming none or little will get to artists. That's not in evidence...

    Perhaps not. But here in Canada and elsewhere, it's often been the experience.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Seegras (profile), 19 May 2017 @ 10:38am

    Already happened in Germany

    Shortly before Christmas 2009 the German GEMA sent out notes to kindergardens that they need to pay up for their sheet music.

    Most of that music is actually in the public domain, but there have been ongoing shenanigans with the sheet music. Basically the publishers committed fraud to keep them under copyright. You'd need to prove that in a court, of course, for each and every version and song. Not going to happen for 50 Christmas songs mostly from the 19th century.

    This is the reaction: Some people set a complete book anew, from the original sheets, to make sure it's free:
    https://musik.klarmachen-zum-aendern.de/singen-im-advent

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 10:39am

    You wouldn't download a music teacher...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 19 May 2017 @ 10:44am

    Re: "banded together", ha, ha! Good pun except I doubt intended, you couldn't resist pointing it out if so.

    Should music-writers starve while music-teachers get paid?

    If music-writers get paid, then everyone else will starve!

    (Absurd slippery slope arguments work in both directions.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Seegras (profile), 19 May 2017 @ 10:50am

    Collecting for the welfare of your ancestors

    you are simply assuming none or little will get to artists.

    Did you ever visit a music school? Because if you did, you'd knew that most material used there comes from composers that were already dead in the 19th century. Whose music has been in the public domain for decades if not centuries.

    And yeah, even if the schools might sometimes use contemporary sheets music, that would be a small amount, making the whole money collecting STILL a rip-off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 10:52am

    Re: Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    A few thousand years? There is evidence of bone flutes from way back in the stone age, so music has been about for at least 40,000 years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 10:56am

    Re: "banded together", ha, ha! Good pun except I doubt intended, you couldn't resist pointing it out if so.

    >Music could be taught without copyrighted works,

    Only if you wish to limit teaching of music to traditional and folk music. Besides which collection societies have been known to demand payment on t6he basis that some copyrighted work may be performed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 11:39am

    Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    Ladies and Gentlemen please,

    My_Name_Here no more believes anything he writes in this forum than he will shoot himself in the head. I have personally met his kind and they mouth off simply to get a reaction so that they can laugh at all responders.

    He will never publicly admit what he truly believes because that will never suit his infantile sense of humour. Actually calling his humour infantile denigrates infants.

    In some ways, I suspect his professional life is as a lawyer, but we can't be certain on that. He could be a used car salesman.

    However, having any sort of intelligent discussion is never going to happen, not even if you put a gun to his head. I was having a discussion last night on the usefulness of capital punishment to society and even with him, capital punishment would have no useful effect as another like him would pop up immediately he was executed.

    So bottom line, just ignore him as this will get on his goat more quickly than anything else.

    Have a pleasant day to all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 11:39am

    Re: "banded together", ha, ha! Good pun except I doubt intended, you couldn't resist pointing it out if so.

    I too, remember the first time I got high.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 19 May 2017 @ 11:48am

    Don't sell your fooken sheet music then. What is one supposed to do with it, line drawers?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    JoeCool (profile), 19 May 2017 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Collecting for the welfare of your ancestors

    Even when schools use sheet music that's still under copyright, they paid a fee when they BOUGHT the sheet music. This is just the greedy collection agency wanted to be paid repeatedly for the same sheets that were already paid for. I imagine some exec in the agency probably got a 100M yen bonus for that interpretation of the law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 12:53pm

    Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    why would they write more songs that will simply be performed for free

    If the possibility of their work being used for free to teach music is a sufficient dis-incentive for a composer to continue writing music, I don't see this as an issue. We're better off without them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 2:27pm

    In the U.S., the 'copy'rights include 'PUBLIC performance'. So it's very clear that nobody can charge you for singing "Happy Birthday" in the shower, or for teaching your three-year-old to sing it at a friend's birthday party. And fair use factors ('educational purposes', and, since the student performs for the teacher, in private, for the sole purpose of submitting that performance to a critique, 'commentary or criticism' should have unusual force.

    Even if in some insane way copyright law applied here, I have a hard time seeing how a private music academy couldn't perfectly-well say, "we don't need your music anyhow, we can find plenty of indie stuff lying around, perfectly good for practice work. How much richer the world would be, if even a single child could be not taught to sing in imitation of the Korean version of Elvis or Madonna!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 19 May 2017 @ 4:00pm

    "What, no! You were supposed to pay us!"

    Seems like an easy way to tell the 'collection' agency to pound sand would be to switch to using only public domain and/or other music that's free to use. Not that this will necessarily prevent the agency from trying to shake them down for money, but it would likely make it easier to fight back.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. icon
    Bergman (profile), 19 May 2017 @ 4:22pm

    Re:

    Quite true. At the very least, the representative will be able to direct you to the nearest banking institution. After all, if you die in the woods, they won't get paid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2017 @ 5:24pm

    Re: "banded together", ha, ha! Good pun except I doubt intended, you couldn't resist pointing it out if so.

    I wish you could find a topic that didn't link copyright with greed

    If you could find one to disprove the thesis being proposed here, if one existed, you'd have presented it.

    Don't expect others to come up with what you demand when you demand the impossible. You just really suck at taking your own advice, huh?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Champion, 19 May 2017 @ 11:10pm

    new course

    how to not pay greedy copyright lawyers and there fiends ( er friends)

    1 hr each week dedicated to showing kids how advertising , marketing and copyright is EVIL might change there minds.

    maybe even setup a school server with torrent tracker for public domain free legal music for the kids

    might really give the message

    EVEN a THREAT of this might get them to back off

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2017 @ 4:13am

    Alt-Music

    Certainly there must be other music available beyond those items "managed" by JASRAC. Teach those others and make clear to all those authors and publishers represented by JASRAC that their music is no longer being taught. Be sure to stress the potential future reductions in actual billable performances of works that the students were not taught to play.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2017 @ 4:28am

    Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    It also proves copyright inspires creativity. No need to PRETENDA otherwise.

    "They will be genuinely creative in their attempts to find infringement everywhere, liberally interpreting copyright law and what constitutes requirements for various licenses for things like art and music, while at the same time often being found to feign brain-death when it comes to paying the copyright holders' share for the money they collect"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2017 @ 4:34pm

    COPYING is STEALING!

    If you copy want someone before you has already done, without paying for permission, you're STEALING. PERIOD!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    ryuugami, 21 May 2017 @ 12:22am

    Re: COPYING is STEALING!

    > PERIOD!

    Wait, what?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 May 2017 @ 5:22pm

    Re: COPYING is STEALING!

    So thou art a hypocrite, as thou hast stolen every word in thy response without paying for permission.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. icon
    PaulT (profile), 22 May 2017 @ 1:58am

    Re: COPYING is STEALING!

    Amusingly enough, while that argument is stupid and easily disproved, it's in no way original and thus copied. Yet, I bet you didn't pay a penny to the tired trolls who preceded you. Thief!

    Oh, and:

    "If you copy want someone before you has already done, without paying for permission, you're STEALING. PERIOD!"

    Come get me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2017 @ 2:39am

    Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    First of all, since the student is learning, the songs aren't yet being "performed" in any capacity. Unless you want to call an off-key rehearsal a "performance", in which case, Dear Lord...

    This is like literally one step away from the "humming a song is infringement" case.

    Oh man, sorry you are right!
    I forgot that artists's estates are fragile snowflakes which must be protected by means of recurrent payments for 3 generations for work done 120-150 years ago.

    Except nowadays it's mostly work for hire and it's not even the artist but a corporation that ends up getting paid. So what are we rewarding again ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. identicon
    My_Name_Here, 22 May 2017 @ 1:24pm

    Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    For reference, the real "snowflake"... this was a fake post, likely by Leigh. Seems the Techdirt staff is having fun with this, posting fakes and being rude. How classy!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 24 May 2017 @ 2:28am

    Re: Re: Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    Indeed, and every toot was licenced, I assure you. /sarc

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 24 May 2017 @ 2:29am

    Re: Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    No, Leigh doesn't do that. What you'll find is that some anonymous wag is doing this for a laugh. Here's the problem: you do seem to think like that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. identicon
    Wendy Cockcroft, 24 May 2017 @ 2:30am

    Re:

    Shh! They'll be very upset if they hear you say that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42. icon
    PaulT (profile), 24 May 2017 @ 2:41am

    Re: Re: I know this will be hidden, but

    Still lying about people, rather than take proactive steps to stop you from being mocked? I'm shocked!

    Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if it's you doing it yourself. A simple plan for the self-obsessed - post something in the hopes that you have a good point for once, either without realising it's dumb or that you're wrong. Then, when you inevitably get called out as an idiot, pretend it's the evil Techdirt staff trying to make you look stupid.

    I mean, it's far easier than creating a unique login, coming up with something relevant and intelligent to say, then honestly debating any points where people can refute or disagree with you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2017 @ 4:11pm

    Japanese students sue Japanese teachers for teaching Japanese.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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