Japan to strengthen copyright protections in light of TPP

JIJI

The Cultural Affairs Agency is considering revising the copyright laws after Japan and 11 other countries last month agreed to strengthen protection of intellectual property rights as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

The revisions under consideration include allowing copyright holders to more easily seek damages for improper use of their work.

But some are concerned that tighter protection will negatively affect certain areas, such as free use of material whose copyright has expired.

The legal copyright protection period in Japan is expected to be extended to 70 years after the author’s death from the current 50 years. For example, comics by Osamu Tezuka, who passed away in 1989, will be protected until 2059, instead of 2039 under the current law.

Other legal changes under consideration include allowing the authorities to investigate intellectual-property infringements and bring charges against offenders even if the copyright holders have not filed complaints as well as allowing rights holders to seek statutory damages for infringements.

Some estimates place the export market for copyrighted Japanese content such as video games and manga at $13.8 billion.

Industry groups, such as the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers, welcome such copyright law revisions.

However, the proposed legal revisions will force groups that release works whose copyrights have expired, such as novels by Osamu Dazai and Soseki Natsume, over the Internet free of charge to go back and review the materials they have made public.

The statutory damage system would be a blow to fans who enjoy creating parodies and other secondary works using manga characters.

The government said the legal revisions will be crafted in such a manner so they will not seriously impact people’s hobbies.

But Ryutaro Nakagawa, a lawyer well versed in copyright issues, said, “If Japan introduces a system that substantially pushes up damage claims, just like in the United States, it is feared it will give rise to a new business whereby large amounts of copyrighted materials are bought up for the purpose of filing law suits seeking compensation, one after another.”

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