Sunday, June 11, 2017

JASRAC demands royalties from music classes

JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers) decided to collect royalties, that is 2.5% of annual sales or the amount decided based on the number of students and monthly due for lessons, from music classes from January next year. 

JASRAC is a general incorporated association that collects royalties on music copyright owned by songwriters and composers from restaurants, TV stations, dance classes, karaoke classes and others. JASRAC now intends to collect royalties from music classes on the ground of "right of performance"* under the copyright law concerning the act of playing musical instruments during lessons in the music classes.

Right of performance* Article 22 The author shall have the exclusive right to perform his work publicly ("publicly" means for the purpose of making a work seen or heard directly by the public).

Responding to the JASRAC's decision, more than 200 companies, such as Yamaha and Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing, which run music classes have raised a strenuous objection. And they are on track to bring a large-scale class action lawsuit, that has never happened before in Japan, demanding a declaratory judgement to confirm non-existence of obligation to the royalties.

In a similar case between a ballroom dance class and JASRAC, JASRAC won the case in the Nagoya High Court in 2004, given a ruling that the act of teacher's replaying music before students during the lessons in the ballroom dance class shall be deemed as "performing publicly", because such students can be deemed as "many and unspecified" customers. Considering this, JASRAC may be advantageous in the case against the music classes.

JASRAC enforces copyright under a trust agreement, get royalties, and distributes the profit to the truster. If this is not copyright but patent, they may be called as a patent troll. However, such activities on copyright seem likely to be easily justified, comparing to patent. Maybe this is because users of copyright work generally use it with an awareness of the work having been created by others, i.e. copy to use it.  On the other hand, in case of patent, a patent owner often appears suddenly to assert his right on products which you developed originally and independently. Maybe that is why patent owners are hated.

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