Government panel backs collection of copyright fees from Japan’s music schools

JIJI

A government panel has issued a recommendation supporting the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC) in its pursuit to collect copyright fee payments from music schools.

The recommendation on Monday strongly hinted that the government will issue a decision supporting the collection of such fees. JASRAC has gradually expanded the collection of music royalties. It imposed fees on ballroom dance schools from 1971, fitness clubs from 2011, culture centers from 2012 and singing schools from 2016.

The recommendation came after a group representing music-school operators and instrument-makers in December asked cultural agency chief Ryohei Miyata to suspend fee collection until their ongoing lawsuit with JASRAC comes to a close.

In Monday’s recommendation, the Cultural Affairs Agency council said JASRAC can collect the fees from the day Miyata’s decision is announced. It also noted that collection can technically begin once the infringement is reported to the authorities. The decision on whether the use of works is subject to copyright law cannot be made while a dispute is ongoing.

The music school group includes Yamaha Music Foundation and Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co. JASRAC initially planned to start collecting royalties from music schools in January.

The agency commissioner’s decision is expected to align with the recent recommendation and be announced shortly.

At the same time, the panel urged JASRAC to take steps to prevent confusion over collection, such as refraining from pressuring noncompliant schools to pay copyright fees while a lawsuit is under way.

In June last year, the rights body applied for the collection of copyright fees for JASRAC-managed scores played at music schools after more than a decade of stalled talks on the issue with the Yamaha Corp.-affiliated music foundation, Kawai Musical Instruments and others.

Music school representatives took the case to the Tokyo District Court later that month, asking JASRAC not to start fee collections before the litigation ended. But the talks fell apart, leading the music schools to seek the Cultural Affairs Agency chief’s judgment.