9 May 2016Jurisdiction reportsRyo Maruyama

Japan: making a meal out of copyright

However, due to rapid development of devices used for reproduction of works including copying books, recording sounds and videotaping, and the increase in illegal transfers of songs, video pictures, etc, using file-sharing sites, the necessity to restrict the scope of the personal use of copyrighted works has been discussed.

In this context, seven writers and comic artists brought a suit against a commercial ‘jisui’ service provider for violating article 30 of the law. Jisui, which means ‘cooking your own meals’ in Japanese, occurs when a user creates digital copies of books, including comic books, by using a scanner.

The plaintiffs argued that carrying out jisui on behalf of individual customers for a charge exceeds the scope of the reproduction for private use stipulated by article 30 of the law. On March 16, 2016, the Second Petty Bench of the Supreme Court rejected the final appeal filed by the jisui service provider against a decision by the second instance court which ordered the service provider to pay ¥700,000 ($6,200) in damages to the plaintiffs. The original decision became final and conclusive.

The Supreme Court ruled for the first time that providing jisui services to individual customers for payment is not within the scope of the personal use of copyrighted works, but infringes reproduction rights of the authors.

In the complaint submitted to the Tokyo District Court (first instance), the plaintiffs argued that jisui involves creating electronic books by removing their spines and scanning the pages. Therefore, they said, if a person carries out jisui, it is within the scope of reproduction for personal use, and does not violate the copyright law.

However, if a jisui service provider scans books on behalf of its individual customers—ie, the person who reproduces the books and the person who uses the reproduced books are different—the jisui carried out by the service provider is not within the scope of personal use and infringes reproduction rights stipulated by the copyright law.

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