There are two items in the press about Japan and copyright law that make an interesting contrast. Here is the first:
'Fair use' stipulation planned for intellectual property
May 25, 2008
BY YASUKAZU AKADA, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
The government will ease its stringent restrictions on using copyrighted works, a development that will affect activities ranging from posting personal pictures on websites to developing Internet search engines, sources said. The Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters, led by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, has decided to make a Japanese version of a U.S. copyright law stipulation that allows for the "fair use" of copyrighted works for criticism, analyses, media reporting and research.
The decision was made to make it easier for venture companies to start new businesses, such as developing a rival to Google. The government intends to revise the Copyright Law to include a fair use stipulation as early as next year. The current Japanese Copyright Law, in principle, prohibits any copying of other people's works or distributing them on the Internet without permission. Exceptions to the law are copying works for personal use at home or for use in schools.
The planned stipulation will largely follow the one under the U.S. copyright law, which bases fair use on certain factors, including: whether the use of works is intended for commercial purposes; and whether the use of works influences the market of those works. The Japanese stipulation will also contain the condition that the use of other people's works must not unfairly hurt the interests of the copyright holders, the sources said.
The current Copyright Law is sweeping in its application. For example, blogs featuring holiday photos of authors posing with anime characters in amusement parks could constitute a violation of the law. That is because the law does not have a specific stipulation that allows such use. In addition, the creation of parodies based on other people's works could also be considered a violation. Those activities could be regarded as legal under the fair use stipulation. Archive services that copy and store information on websites could also become legal under the revised law, allowing companies to start up such businesses, the sources said.
The Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters will agree to consider the fair use stipulation in its "intellectual property promotion plan 2008" next month. After that, a study panel will discuss the issue.
Here is the second, from Martyn Williams in PC World
Japan's Cultural Affairs Agency has proposed adding a fee to the price of Apple iPods and other digital music and video devices to partially compensate rights holders for revenues lost to piracy. The proposal represents an extension of an existing program that adds the fee to the price of blank recordable media and products such as MiniDisc recorders. Consumers end up paying an additional few tens of yens (tens of U.S. cents) for media under the scheme that started in 1992.
The agency, which is part of Japan's central government, wants this expanded to music players and video recorders based on hard-disk drives, an agency spokesman said on customary condition on anonymity. It's not clear how much extra the fee would add to the price of hardware. However the iPod and other music players are primarily devices for music playback, not music recording, so their potential role in piracy isn't as clear as that of a MiniDisc recorder or video recorder.
The proposal will likely be formed into a report that will feed into a planned Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology proposal to amend Japan's copyright law. If everything goes to schedule the amended copyright law would come into effect in 2010 but the proposal's inclusion in the amendment to the copyright law is not automatic and could be shelved or changed prior to its inclusion.