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Several weeks ago, I was surprised to read that a revision to the copyright law would go into effect on Dec. 30, extending the current protection period from 50 years after an author’s death to 70 years. When the extension was first discussed as part of the original 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, I was under the impression that Japan had accepted the provision under pressure from the United States. Then U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the TPP and the copyright extension seemed dead, but apparently Japan revived it for the renegotiated TPP-11, which doesn’t include the United States.

Intellectual property is a significant export market for the United States. Entertainment companies such as Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros., who own rights to classic films and characters, have pressured the government to demand longer protections from trading partners. It’s probably less of a priority for the trading partners themselves, so I wondered when and why the Japanese government had approved the extension.

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