17 November 2015Copyright

Japan’s government considers extending copyright protection

Japan is considering extending the term of copyright protection to ‘life plus 70 years’ in order to be compliant with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

Currently, the term of protection is ‘life plus 50 years’, but according to the TPP, agreed by Japan and 11 other nations, the minimum level of protection afforded to copyright owners must be ‘life plus 70 years’.

According to The Japan Times government body the Agency for Cultural Affairs is considering legislative changes. Furthermore, the government is also reportedly considering introducing powers for authorities to tackle infringing activity.

Kensaku Takase, partner at law firm Baker & McKenzie, said international companies will benefit from the harmonisation of copyright law across the 12 nations.

“Consistency of the term of copyright protection is indeed a good thing, and certainly makes matters simpler for companies in all the TPP jurisdictions. The term for protection in Japan is generally 'life plus 50 years', so there will be 20 additional years of protection once the amendments come into force.

"It will certainly benefit overseas companies, particularly US entertainment companies doing business in Japan. Japan itself also has a lot of creative industries, such as animation and games, for which I would expect the additional duration would be most welcome," he added.

The proposed legislation faces opposition from a group of artists and digital rights organisations called the Japan Forum for Intellectual Property Aspects and Transparency of TPP.

In March, the group said an extension of copyright would “dramatically increase the number of orphan works”. The group claims that orphan works are a “serious impediment to digitisation” because of the difficulty in finding the appropriate right owner to license the work.

The TPP agreement was finalised in October and comprises 12 nations—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam. But the full agreement was only recently released by the US government earlier this month.

Each nation will have to individually  ratify the agreement before it can become law.

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