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TPP’s copyright extension affecting businesses handling copyright expired works

  • 2016-03-02 15:00:00
  • , Asahi
  • Translation

(Asahi: March 2, 2016 – p. 10)


 Once the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement goes into effect, Japan will extend the copyright of books and music from 50 years to 70 years after the death of the author or composer. This change will affect publishers that handle copyright-expired works.


 Aozora Bunko digitalizes copyright expired books for public disclosure on the Internet free of charge. More than 13,000 titles are currently available. It is working on the digitalization of Shugoro Yamamoto’s “Aobeka Monogatari (Story of Aobeka),” whose copyright will expire at the end of 2017. But the effectuation of TPP will affect when the book can go online.


 “The revised Copyright Act will prevent us from releasing new titles for 20 years,” said Akiko Tomita, the wife of the publisher’s founder, who died in 2013. “That will cause many works to be forgotten.”


 Pan Rolling, a company that produces audio CDs of copyright-expired works by such authors as William Shakespeare and Soseki Natsume, may have to cancel the publishing of audiobooks, depending on when the revised bill becomes effective. “Our products are marketed because there are no copyrights,” said a Pan Rolling staff member. “Because of that, we are allowed to fine-tune our products by summarizing longer stories or taking out short pieces from anthologies to make them available individually.”


 Meanwhile, the effectuation of the TPP may give an edge to Japanese content providers. Last year alone, Japan paid 960 billion yen abroad for copyright usage and earned only 240 billion yen in royalties. Once the copyright protection period gets longer, Japanese companies will be able to earn royalties from such content as Doraemon and Hello Kitty over a longer period of time.


 But the extension of the copyright protection period requires cumbersome procedures to manage copyrights or get usage permits. “The ideal is that the extension of copyright should only be awarded to works registered by the bereaved families of authors,” said Kensaku Fukui, a copyright specialist lawyer. “We have to consider measures to diminish the number of works that go into ‘dead storage’.”

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