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Music schools to sue Japan’s largest copyright collection group over plan to collect fees

by

Staff Writer

A group of major private music school operators said Tuesday they intend to take legal action against Japan’s largest copyright collection group after it emerged it would from next January levy copyright fees on schools using its music.

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.

But school operators argue that performances during classes should not require consent from a composer under the copyright law.

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.

The representative said that JASRAC’s move had sparked concern among students that the copyright fees would affect the schools. He acknowledged the revised policy could lead to an increase in tuition fees.

Yamaha Music Foundation has more than 3,300 schools across Japan teaching about 390,000 students, including 280,000 children.

“JASRAC only informed us it would collect the fees … but we can’t accept this,” the representative said. “Unlike other entertainment activities, the only purpose of performing music by teachers or students at such schools is to educate, not to make a work heard, which is why we stress the copyright does not apply.”

But JASRAC disagrees.

“Schools offering music lessons use a lot of (copyrighted) works,” a spokesman told The Japan Times.

He said the music schools had failed to interpret the section of the copyright law concerning the right of performance and the presentation of copyright works publicly.

“There is no definition of a (music) performance … But the definition under the law does not apply only to concerts,” the JASRAC spokesman said.

“In our understanding, the copyright law should be applied to all businesses playing music (under our management). Companies like Yamaha and JASRAC have the same goal of cultural development and we are disappointed that it is not understood the copyright law has been introduced to benefit the authors.”

The spokesman added the organization had enabled school operators to select the most convenient form of agreement with payment either per work, monthly or annually.

JASRAC, which was established in 1939, is the nation’s largest music copyright management organization and has long been criticized for its overbearing approach to collecting copyright fees.