Now JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers) has formally begun a further step in its mission to enforce copyright in a range of public space. On September 25, 2017, the Sapporo District Court in Hokkaido began the initial oral hearings in JASRAC’s first case against haircutting establishments that are allegedly playing songs for which JASRAC administers copyright. The barbershop owner claimed that he was using music lacking copyright over the past three years for which JASRAC demands royalty payment.
The royalties arrears, as JASRAC has calculated for the past three years, is in the range of under a few hundred dollars. Over this single case the fight seems exaggerated, but considering the numerous barber shops and hair salons throughout Japan, this signals a warning to thousands of establishments that they may be required to pay up if the case goes against the defendant in this case. In June 2017, he claimed JASRAC had told him that he could ignore the annual warnings they had been sending him, and was surprised this year to be sued formally.
JASRAC’s has been ramping up its pressure for the rights it claims for musicians and composers increasingly vigorously and consistently, and sees this litigation as part of this process toward greater consistency in enforcement. The claim by the defendant in this case that he did not need to pay attention to the infringement warnings probably should not constitute a waiver of JASRAC’s authority to seek payment, if the copyright has actually been infringed to begin with. And even if the defendant can win based on this circumstance, it is unlikely that other violators would be let off the hook and JASRAC will continue to push for royalties in more and more spheres.
October 10 update: Meanwhile, in another case JASRAC initiated against an alleged infringing public establishment, Takamatsu restaurant and bar Jamaican Corner BROWN’S, the defendant chose to admit to copyright infringement and settle with JASRAC, paying what it has been charged, though a representative complained that JASRAC’s policy of distributing royalties collected from establishments like his is opaque.
Writer: Josiah T. Momose.
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