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Japan Considers Revising Copyright Law Due to Trans-Pacific Partnership

posted on by Rafael Antonio Pineda
Revision could allow for unilateral enforcement of intellectual property violators

Japan's Cultural Affairs Agency is considering a revision of the country's copyright laws, after having reached an agreement with 11 other countries last month regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

Among many other agreements, the TPP includes a provision for all signatories to enforce a minimum level of protection for trademarks, copyrights, and patents. Included among these provisions is the length of copyright protection after the author's death being extended to 70 years (similar to the United States), instead of the current 50 years.

Other intellectual property provisions contained in the agreement include allowing unilateral enforcement by law enforcement authorities. This provision will enable authorities to investigate possible infringements of intellectual property, and charge possible offenders, even without a complaint from the copyright holder, if the offense is on a "commercial scale" (although "situations that do not have a major impact on the original work's profits" are exempted). In Japan, copyright infringement is currently a shinkokuzai, or a crime that can only be prosecuted if the victim files charges. Rights holders will also be able to seek statutory damages for infringement.

The Japanese government held a conference in May specifically focusing on how the TPP would affect events like Comiket (Comic Market), where fans and creators sell dōjinshi (self-published works, many of which are based on other creative works). Comiket currently exists in a gray zone, since while dōjinshi are technically against the law, most creators tacitly consent to their production and sale. This year's summer Comiket (pictured above right) drew a total of 550,000 attendees in August.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology held a subcommittee meeting on copyright law earlier this month to discuss the TPP's intellectual property provisions. While industry groups — such as the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC), and the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan (MPPAJ) — broadly support the agreement, JASRAC has suggested a clarification of terms, such as what constitutes a "commercial scale" offense, or quantifying what a "major impact" entails. The organization also recommended that rights holders be consulted on whether violators should be prosecuted.

The Japanese government has previously stated that if legal revisions are made, they will be made in a way that will not seriously impact people's hobbies.

Manga creator Ken Akamatsu (Love Hina, Negima) has been a vocal opponent of the TPP. Legal experts, such as copyright lawyer and Nihon University professor Kensaku Fukui, have also spoken out about the agreement.

Photo via Mainichi Simbun's Mantan Web

Source: The Japan Times

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