National / Crime & Legal

Copyright watchdog JASRAC files lawsuits over use of background music in stores

Kyodo

Japan’s copyright management organization has filed lawsuits against owners of a barber shop and a restaurant over the use of background music at their stores, seeking damages and injunctions.

The Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers filed the lawsuits Tuesday at the Sapporo District Court in Hokkaido and the Takamatsu District Court in Kagawa Prefecture. The suits are the first of their kind, according to the organization.

JASRAC claims the barber shop in Sapporo has not paid usage fees valued at about ¥30,000 ($265) since around May 2014 and that the restaurant in Takamatsu has not paid around ¥70,000 since around September 2007.

The organization said its personnel visited the stores and explained the need to obtain permission. The requests were rejected, and the issue could not be resolved through civil conciliation.

“I am surprised by the lawsuit. We were only playing music with expired copyright,” the owner of the barber shop said.

“The lawsuits were inevitable to maintain fairness in managing copyrights,” Kenzo Ohashi, managing director of JASRAC, said at a news conference. “We would like to solve the issues by explaining in advance as much as we can.”

According to JASRAC, about 1.3 million stores throughout the country are using music with copyright managed by JASRAC as background music, but nearly 40 percent of them don’t have authorization.

Since 2015, civil conciliation over unauthorized usage of background music has been requested in 536 cases. Parties were unable to reach an agreement in 24 cases.