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Copyright law of Japan

Japanese copyright laws 著作権法, Chosakukenhō consist of two parts: "Author's Rights" and "Neighbouring Rights" As such, "copyright" is a convenient collective term rather than a single concept in Japan Japan was a party to the original Berne convention in 1899, so its copyright law is in sync with most international regulations


  • 1 English translation
  • 2 Author's rights
    • 21 Applicability
    • 22 Moral rights
    • 23 Economic rights
  • 3 Neighboring rights
    • 31 Performers' rights
    • 32 Phonogram producers' rights
    • 33 Broadcasters' and wire diffusers' rights
  • 4 Limitations and exceptions
    • 41 Artistic works
    • 42 Educational use
    • 43 News
    • 44 Non-profit performance
    • 45 Political speeches
    • 46 Publication for the blind
    • 47 Quotation
    • 48 Software
    • 49 Copying by search engines
    • 410 Orphan works
    • 411 Use of artistic works on the internet
    • 412 Text and data mining
    • 413 Temporary copying
  • 5 Public domain
  • 6 Length of protection
  • 7 Recent developments
    • 71 Compensation system for digital private recording
    • 72 Downloadable audio for mobile phones
    • 73 Right of communication to the public
    • 74 Copyright management business law
    • 75 Right of transfer of ownership
    • 76 Right of presentation
  • 8 See also
  • 9 References
  • 10 External links

English translation

The definitive version of Japanese law regarding copyright exists only in Japanese text An official English-language translation of the law does not exist, but the Japanese Ministry of Justice has the website called "Japanese Law Translation" where one can search for Japanese laws and their unofficial English translation IP laws such as Patent Act, Copyright Act, Trademark Act, Design Act and Unfair Competition Prevention Act are included there

Reliable information on Japanese copyright law in English is also provided by the websites of Intellectual Property High Court, "Transparency of Japanese Law Project", European Patent Office, and Copyright Research and Information Center CRIC For more details, see "External links" at the bottom of this page

Author's rights


Japanese copyright law protects all works "in which thoughts or sentiments are expressed in a creative way, and which falls within the literary, scientific, artistic or musical domain" The laws automatically provide the following rights, without the need for formal declaration or registration

Moral rights

  • Divulgence: The author can choose when and how a work will be made available to the public
  • Authorship: The author can choose how their authorship is represented in the work eg, under pseudonym or anonymity
  • Integrity: The author can control the modification of a work

"Moral rights" are non-transferable; they remain with the author until they expire Although moral rights themselves cannot be waived, the exercise of moral rights is waived by contract, when, for example, an employee or contractor creates a derivative work of her/his employer's or principal's product In such a situation, the moral rights would technically remain with the creator, but the creator would be potentially liable for breach of contract if he attempts to exercise those rights

Economic rights

  • Reproduction: The author can control the reproduction of a work, including photography, recording, and downloading
  • Communication: The author can control how a work is to be transmitted, communicated, broadcast, performed, exhibited, etc, including how copies of the work are to be distributed
  • Adaptation: The author can control the adaptation of a work through translation, dramatization, cinematization, and the creation of derivative works in general

Unlike moral rights, economic rights can be freely transferred or relinquished If the author transfers their economic rights to another, the holder of the economic rights becomes the "copyright holder", but the author retains authorship

Neighboring rights

"Neighboring rights" refer to the rights of performers, broadcasters, and other individuals who do not author works, but play an important role in communicating them to the public

Performers' rights

Performers generally have two non-transferable moral rights:

  • Authorship, or control over how they are named in connection with the work; and
  • Integrity, or control over the alteration of a performance, in a manner that would prejudice the performer's reputation

Live performers have the transferable economic rights of fixation control over recording, making available control over publication in interactive media such as the internet, and diffusion control over diffusion by wire or broadcast

Fixed aural performers have the transferable economic rights of fixation and making available, as well as transfer of ownership, and rental They can also demand remuneration if their work is broadcast or diffused by wire

Phonogram producers' rights

Phonogram producers have the same economic rights as fixed aural performers, but do not have any moral rights

Broadcasters' and wire diffusers' rights

Broadcasters and wire diffusers have the transferable economic rights of fixation, reproduction, making available, and retransmission Television broadcasters also have a right to control photography of their broadcasts

Limitations and exceptions

Artistic works

Artistic works located in public places can be reproduced freely by photograph, film, etc However, except for architecture, the author's permission must be obtained before publicly exhibiting their work, and commercial reproductions of artistic works are not permitted without the author's permission

Educational use

Teachers at non-profit educational institutions are permitted to reproduce copyrighted works for the purpose of teaching, as long as such reproduction does not infringe on the interests of the author For example, a teacher may duplicate a television program or audio recording, but may not distribute copies of educational software without express permission Works can also be reproduced in examinations at educational institutions, but the author must be remunerated if the exam is performed for-profit


Unless a newspaper or wire service article specifically states that it cannot be reproduced, free reproduction is permitted Normally, copyrighted materials can also be reproduced to the extent necessary for reporting of current events this extends to printed matter, film, and photographs

Non-profit performance

Works can be performed or exhibited freely if the performer is not remunerated, and the audience is not charged an admission fee

Political speeches

Political speeches and government proceedings can be freely reproduced, except when the intent of the reproduction is to create an anthology of the author's works

Publication for the blind

Braille and audio versions of printed materials may be reproduced for the purpose of lending, but not for commercial use


Works may be quoted freely, as long as the quotation does not exceed what is justified for its purpose


Software can be reproduced for personal use If one of the above exceptions to reproduce a work publicly is used, the person reproducing the work must cite its source

In 2009 Japanese copyright law was updated to allow the following digitally focused limitations and exceptions:

Copying by search engines

Copying on servers of in-copyright works in order to provide search engine–type services

Orphan works

The use of an orphan work, an in-copyright work whose owner cannot be found, on the internet, subject to approval from the Japanese Ministry of Culture

Use of artistic works on the internet

Reflecting the popularity of online auction websites like eBay, the use of an image of an in-copyright work, on the internet when advertising something for sale

Text and data mining

The analysis of in-copyright works using computers Art47 septies in order to extract statistics and information, and come up with new ideas Japan was the first country in the world to introduce an exception for text mining as well as data mining

Temporary copying

Caching, storing, copying etc

Public domain

Even when particular materials are said to be "in the public domain" there can be some use restrictions In such cases, the term copyright-free is sometimes used instead Many pre-1953 Japanese and non-Japanese films are considered to be in the public domain in Japan An author's work may be put into the public domain fifty years after the individual dies, unless the publisher re-publishes the work

Length of protection

Works authored by an individual, under their own name or a known pseudonym, are protected for fifty years following the individual's death Works authored anonymously or pseudonymously, as well as works authored by corporations, where the individual author or authors are unknown, are protected for fifty years following publication As of May 2014, in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, Japan had reportedly agreed to extend the duration of protection to seventy years to be more in line with the United States and other nations

Cinematographic works are protected for seventy years following publication or seventy years following creation if unpublished This update was made in 2004 to be more consistent with other nations around the world, as the previous term was fifty years However, in 2006 the Tokyo District Court said that the 2004 law cannot be applied retroactively, so that all cinematographic works published or created, if unpublished before 1953 are now public domain However, in 2007 the Tokyo District Court ruled that for works in particular from Akira Kurosawa released before and in 1970 copyright protection is extended until 38 years after the original copyright holder's death

Neighboring rights apply for fifty years after the work is performed, transmitted, or put on sale

Works authored by, or transferred to, residents of countries which were Allied Powers in World War II, before the effectuation of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, are given some prolonged protection by an exemption law This extension compensates for the unprotected period in World War II, and varies with the country of the author or the copyright holder in the wartime The prolongation is normally by 3,794 days including Australia, Canada, France, United Kingdom, and the United States, but some countries ratified later, and have longer wartime the longest is 4,413 days for Lebanon

Recent developments

Compensation system for digital private recording

In 1992, the "Compensation System for Digital Private Recording" was introduced According to this system, those who make digital sound or visual recordings for personal use should pay compensation to the copyright owners This compensation is added in advance to the prices of specified digital recording equipment DAT, DCC, MD, CD-R, CD-RW, and specified recording media DVCR, D-VHS, MVDISC, DVD-RW, DVD-RAM Japan Copyright Office 2001, 17; ibid 24

The compensation is collected and distributed by SARAH Society for the Administration of Remuneration for Audio Home Recording and SARVH Society for the Administration of Remuneration for Video Home Recording The users of this equipment and media have to pay a fee, or "compensation", so that they can use the described materials for copying the copyright-protected works The public domain is not directly threatened, but in an indirect way, it becomes more difficult expensive to reproduce works for personal use

Downloadable audio for mobile phones

The only way to get these downloadable audio files is by creating a sort of user account on a provider's website, and agreeing with a click-wrap contract that allows a user to download a certain number of audio files for a fixed payment This kind of system is in fact a kind of trusted system, although we may not be aware of it

Mamoru Kato, a JASRAC executive, said during a press conference after having set new fees for downloadable audio in cooperation with the Network Music Rights Conference, that "these new agreements will help enlighten Internet users, many of whom believe music can freely be copied from the Net We have to teach them that you should not use other people's assets for free, by opening up a legal window for them to use" The Japan Times Online, 18 August 2000 In other words, the clever user who tries to free-ride on the original genius of the creator of this or that audio file has to be educated, and forced to participate in a trusted system in order to obtain the desired audio files No one has so far mentioned about either fair use or the reach of the public domain

The above examples show that if trusted systems and look-alikes intend to play an important role in the future without intruding on anonymity, etc, one will have to incorporate these values as gaps in the architecture of these systems It is, however, doubtful whether this will happen

Right of communication to the public

See also: Right to Make Transmittable

In 1997, the Japanese Copyright Law was updated to expand the coverage of the author's "right of communication to the public" established in 1986 under the name of Rights of Broadcasting and Wire Transmission to the stage of making it transmittable The objects of the right of communication to the public are the activities of connecting a server to a network, and the activities of transmission Fujiwara 1999, 98

The Copyright Law defines the concepts, "public transmission" Copyright Law, Article 2, paragraph 1 7-2, and "interactive transmission" Copyright Law, Article 2, paragraph 1 9-4:

  • "Public transmission" means "the transmission of radio communication or wire-telecommunication intended for direct reception by the public" In order to deal with the new context of the Internet, the already existing concept of interactive transmission websites, video-on-demand, etc made a theoretical move, and is now considered as residing under public transmission besides wire diffusion and broadcasting Japan Copyright Office 2001, 30
  • Interactive transmission stands for "the public transmission made automatically in response to a request from the public" read: in response to a click with the mouse on a hyperlink

Besides these two definitions, Article 23 1 of the Copyright Law provides that the "author shall have the exclusive right to make the public transmission of his or her work including the making transmittable of his or her work in the case of the interactive transmission" This can be considered an expansion of the right of public transmission of authors to the preceding stage of making transmittable, available Fujiwara 1999, 98-99; Japan Copyright Office 2001, 31, and even of a right of making transmittable that goes further than the WIPO Copyright Treaty Ficsor 2002, 506

Apart from this, and in order to comply with the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, a right of making transmittable was also granted to performers and phonogram producers The scope here is especially to regulate the internet broadcasting of live performances Fujiwara 1999, 98; Japan Copyright Office 2001, 31

At first sight, one should say that the law was adapted to the new possibilities, the Internet provides—uploading content to a server, and accessing context via hyperlinks Indeed, as the difference between simultaneous and non-simultaneous receptions fades The Japanese Multimedia Report Ficsor 2002, 198, it seems to make sense to expand the right of public transmission of authors also to the stage of making transmittable ie, "uploading of content to a server that is accessible by the public" But on the other hand, when we look at it from the viewpoint of the public domain, the wider reach of the concept of communication to the public means a big limitation of the reach of this public domain

This is not a discourse against "copyright protection" Indeed, in a lot of cases, copyright protection seems to work as a system, and creates an incentive to produce We only should be aware that the current transformations in the legislation concerning intellectual property rights—in Japan and in other countries—is moving very fast, and do not seem to take into account all facets of the story, nor remember the very basic goal of copyright, which is "to contribute to the development of culture" While copyright protection is an urgent task, excessive protection that allows for no copying "may damage the functioning of society that thrives on impartiality and imitation" The Japan Times Online, 21 February 2002

Copyright management business law

In November 2000, the "Copyright Management Business Law" 4223 was enacted Its main purpose is to facilitate the establishment of new copyright management businesses, in order to "respond to the development of digital technologies and communication networks" Japan Copyright Office 2001, 27 In general, we can say that this law will facilitate the rise of copyright management businesses, and possibly create a further limitation to the reach of the public domain

In its book, "Copyright System in Japan", the title of this section is to "secure the effectiveness of rights by utilizing new technologies" Japan Copyright Office 2001, 32 This shows clearly that the Japanese government considers software to be a tool for enforcing copyright legislation Not mentioned, however, is the possible negative side-effects concerning fair use limitation on rights, or the reach of the public domain

Under the section in the same book pertaining to the "regulation of the circumvention of technological measures such as copy protection, etc", it is stated that "transfer to the public of the ownership of, and manufacture, etc of, the devices to circumvent technological measures eg, copy protection, which prevent copying of videogram sic or music CD without authorization, are regulated by the sic criminal penalty" Japan Copyright Office 2001, 32 It is quite clear that with this regulation, it becomes impossible to circumvent the copyright-protection of intellectual property in the context of fair use This means that when a CD, etc is copyright-protected, there is not only technically no space for fair use, but also from the legislative side, there is no support for copying in the context of fair use

The "regulation of the alteration etc of the rights management information" section strengthens the first regulation by saying that it is forbidden to remove rights management information attached to the work However, it is to be said that this provision, and such, does not seem to limit immediately the reach of the public domain Mentioning the source, etc of the quoted material is generally considered as appropriate

Right of transfer of ownership

As stated by the Japan Copyright Office, the "right of transfer of ownership" was established in 1999, in order to enrich the rights of authors This means that authors, performers and phonogram producers can exercise their right concerning the transfer of the ownership of the original, or copies of the work, at the first legal transfer After this, the right will be extinguished Japan Copyright Office 2001, 32 This new ruling can be considered as a contribution to the recent strengthening of author-centered regimes

Right of presentation

Another aspect of the 1999 amendment to the Japanese Copyright Law was the so called extension of the "right of presentation" Previously, this right was only granted to cinematographic work Japan Copyright Office 2001, 32 After the amendment, it was extended to all kinds of works, reaffirming at the same time, exactly as in the right of transfer of ownership, the importance of the notion of the author

See also

  • Japanese patent law
  • Japanese trademark law
  • Japanese design law
  • Japanese law


  1. ^ Japanse Law Translation
  2. ^ Intellectual Property High Court in English
  3. ^ Japanese Copyright Law and Japanese Patent Law in English
  4. ^ Patent information from Japan
  5. ^ Copyright Research and Information Center CRIC
  6. ^ "Paramount — Japanese court rules pre-1953 movies in public domain" December 7, 2006 Retrieved November 1, 2007 
  7. ^ TPP「知財」合意へ前進 著作権保護期間、70年に統一で調整 in Japanese Sankei Digital 2014-05-14 Archived from the original on 2014-09-07 
  8. ^ Copyright Law of Japan, Article 54, http://wwwcricorjp/cric_e/clj/cljhtml
  9. ^ Paramount Pictures: Japanese Court Rules Pre-1953 Movies in Public Domain
  10. ^ Intellectual Property High Court rules Kurosawa still under copyright
  11. ^ Tokyo court clarifies copyright law: Kurosawa DVDs halted for sales, production

External links

  • Japanese Law Translation - the website of Ministry of Justice Japan, by which you can search for Japanese laws and their English translation Intellectual Property laws such as Patent Act, Copyright Act, Trademark Act, Design Act, Unfair Competition Prevention Act etc are included
  • Intellectual Property High Court in English
    • Jurisdiction
    • Statistics
    • Summary of Cases - You can search for English summaries of IP cases in all the instances
    • Publications - Presentation and theses on IP in English by Japanese judges, and the record of visitors to Intellectual High Court from all over the world
  • Japanese Copyright Law and Japanese Patent Law - As part of "Transparency of Japanese Law Project", overviews and explanation of Japanese copyright and patent are provided in English The website of this project also contains information on corporate law, contract law, finance law, insolvency law, arbitration law and civil litigation law in Japan
  • Institute of Intellectual Property IIP of Japan in English
  • Patent information from Japan - on the European Patent Office web site
  • Copyright Research and Information Center CRIC in English - containing a wide range of information on "copyright" law of japan

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