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Copyright And Copy Protection In Japan

By DarkZero in News
Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 12:05:09 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

The recording industry announces dropping CD sales in the midst of a recession, but blames "piracy" as the principal cause. Multiple record companies band together to sue a peer-to-peer file sharing service. A record label announces that it will be the first record label in the nation to implement copy protection on its CDs.

No, it's not the United States, at least not this week. It's Japan, a country that is facing its own, albeit similar, copyright and copy protection battles, as well as reaching its own milestones in the debate and possibly changing the landscape for the copyright battles of those in other countries.

So far, the debate over file sharing services, copyrighted music, and copy protected music has been largely restricted to the United States. Napster originated in the United States, most of its descendants have originated in the United States, and most of the waves that it created within the intellectual property industry have been felt in the United States. But in just the last couple of months, that has changed. In January, the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) and similar Japanese intellectual property groups took notice of a Japanese file sharing program that had only been around since November and have since made up for nearly two years of controversy, almost reaching the current state of the debate in the United States (the birthplace of this ridiculous mess) in just over sixty days.

The story of the current controversy over copyrighted music in Japan began with an announcement from the RIAJ on January 18th stating that their CD sales had declined for a third year in a row due to the combination of young people spending their money on other things (cellphones and their related services and merchandise) and an increase in music piracy (it's worth noting that the article makes no mention of Japan's deep recession, which The Economist's unlinkable print version indicates is nearing the point of bank runs, bank collapses, and possibly crossing the line between recession and depression). On January 29th, this was used to go after the "File Rogue" file sharing service, which seems to be the Japanese equivalent to Napster - a big, popular, centralized file sharing service that doesn't yet have a lot of competition. In that case, the Japan Society of Rights for Authors, Composers and Publishers (Japanese language) and nineteen record companies are asking for a ruling barring MMO Japan Ltd., the makers of File Rogue, from making any of their copyrighted songs available digitally, as well as awarding 151m ($1.16m USD) in damages at 5% annual interest, 28m ($216,000 USD) per month from March 1st, 2002 that the files are still being transmitted, and the cost of the legal fees of JASRAC and the nineteen companies, according to the story from the RIAJ. (It should also be noted that, though those sums seem very small in comparison to the legal damages awarded in other countries, they are actually quite large for Japan. Legal damages are usually much, much smaller in Japan than they are in other countries because the Japanese have effectively managed to keep their civil court system from getting out of hand and becoming a lottery or a method for ruining the lives of others.)

That case is still pending, but these events have led to a further, and possibly more important development. On March 13th, record company Avex Inc., a major player in the Japanese record industry, released their first copyrighted CD, the CD single "Every Heart" by Korean female singer BoA (best known in native English speaking countries for singing "Duvet", the opening theme to the anime series "serial experiments lain"). It is protected with the now infamous Cactus Data Shield technology from the Israeli security company Midbar Tech, and, according to C|Net, is labelled as a copy protected disc. The Asahi Shimbun article claims that it will play on any computer running Windows (but certainly not Macintosh, Linux, or any other OS) and simply won't allow the user to save any of the files on it, but the C|Net article claims that on each disc, some songs will play and some won't, and it seems like the few that will play will be able to be saved. But no matter what the truth is about whether or not the CDs can be played in a Windows machine, one thing that is definite is that this is not just a trial test. "Every Heart" is a single, but it will be followed on March 20th by Do As Infinity's greatest hits album "Do the Best", as well as female vocalist Kumi Koda's new album "Affection" in the same week. Granted, they aren't the absolute biggest signs of faith in copy protection that Avex could make, but they're much bigger signs of faith than the ones that BMG made in Finland and Germany. It seems that, barring any major action from Philips Electronics (the holder of the patents on CD technology) or a serious defect in the discs, copy protection is on its way to making a major foothold in Japan.

But what does this mean for the rest of the world? If it succeeds, it could mean that CD copy protection could join the ranks of DVD Region Coding and Macrovision as a form of intellectual property control that is widely accepted by the average person around the world, especially if it gains some ground in a technologically educated and inclined country like Japan, which also happens to be the second largest economy in the world. Legally, it could also mean a much tougher fight for groups in the vein of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which would be faced with a second large battleground on which they must battle copy protection (I'm not saying that the EFF would be involved, but certainly groups and people that share their goals). It also may mean a lot of frustration for the average Japanese consumer that is turned away from legally ripping his MP3s to his computer or illegally downloading music from the internet.

One effect of this is definite, though, and that's the total lack of effect on the skilled rippers and the legion of leechers that depend on them. A single search for "BoA" and "Every Heart" on the file sharing service WinMX reveals 182 MP3s, and this is from a copy protected CD single for an internationally obscure Korean singer. I'll leave you to decide what you think that, and all the rest of this, means for everyone else involved.


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Related Links
o Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ)
o an announcement from the RIAJ
o go after the "File Rogue" file sharing service
o Japan Society of Rights for Authors, Composers and Publishers
o the story from the RIAJ
o released their first copyrighted CD
o Midbar Tech
o C|Net
o is labelled as a copy protected disc
o Asahi Shimbun
o article
o article [2]
o Electronic Frontier Foundation
o WinMX
o Also by DarkZero

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Copyright And Copy Protection In Japan | 23 comments (11 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
Conflicts of Interest (3.50 / 4) (#2)
by gnovos on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 04:24:11 AM EST

I find this amazing, becuase in Japan they have thousands of CD rental shops, maybe tens of thousands. It is common knowledge that people rent from these shops and make thier own mixes (MDs are quite popular).

I wonder if some of this is not pressure from our media giants to get the rest of he world "in line"?

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
"Our" media giants? (none / 0) (#20)
by AngelKnight on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 10:41:34 PM EST

Last I checked, Sony and Bertelsmann, to name two, work in America but don't "live" here. (Japan and ... uhhh... Europe somewhere, respectively ^_^)

* AngelKnight crawls back under the rock of ignorance.

[ Parent ]
Bertelsmann (none / 0) (#23)
by J'raxis on Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 06:17:55 PM EST

Bertelsmann AG is based in Germany.

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

Dead horse (3.00 / 5) (#3)
by paxus on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 04:31:43 AM EST

While i feel this topic has been beaten to death with a heavy mallet, it is a good article, especially for those who live in caves and have not heard of it.
+1 Section

"...I am terrible time, the destroyer of all beings in all worlds, engaged to destroy all beings in this world... " - Lord Krishna, Bhagavad Gita
Japan and Copyprotection (4.75 / 4) (#13)
by mikeliu on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 09:56:32 AM EST

I posted this way back when it happened in November on RadioFreeNation back before I knew about K5, but I'll post it again here now. This never was picked up by any mainstream news sources or even non-mainstream weblogs such as /. besides RadioFreeNation as far as I know.

It was probably bound to happen eventually, but in a still unprecedented move, 2 men were arrested in Japan for using a P2P filesharing client, in this case WinMX. It was only a matter of time before the copyright industry decided to make an example out of someone, and unfortunately for those 2, it was them. http://www.nikkeibp.asiabiztech.com/wcs/leaf?CID=onair/asabt/cover/157612

Here is the link to the press release by the ACCS, the Japanese software industry equivalent of the RIAA or MPAA. - http://www.accsjp.or.jp/news/011128e.html - The press release affirms the fact that this was the world's first arrest for copyright infringement by file-sharing software.

These guys were brought in for copyright infringement of software, not music, in Japan, but it really is pretty much completely analogous. I haven't heard anything more from this story since then, but that's probably because there isn't much to tell. There's a body of evidence against them, Japan has a ~95% conviction rate, seems like they probably have since gotten open-and-shut'd.

Warez (none / 0) (#22)
by J'raxis on Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 06:16:26 PM EST

No, this is more analagous to people being busted for warez trading (FTP, IRC, selling CDs, etc.), which is fairly common, isn’t it? They just happened to be using a different transport this time.

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

japan and copyright (4.66 / 3) (#14)
by mikeliu on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 10:14:18 AM EST

My analysis of the situation is that anti-copy protection, pro-file trading crusaders are going to really have their work cut out for them in Japan.

Japanese government frequently shows itself to care more about its corporations than its people. And its people (this is a sweeping generalization) tend to have a "peasant mentality" as I see it, wherein they will mindlessly obey any order presented from authority figures with nary a peep of protest. The prevailing attitude among the people seems to be that corporations and government will be corrupt, but there is little or nothing that they can do about it (Shou ga nai), so just keep your head down and do as you're told. These same comments are often placed at the feet of the American people, but from my personal experience, they are much stronger fitting with the Japanese. The government in Japan can enforce bizarre tariffs on foreign goods competing with wealthy vested commercial interests, and the government needs only to issue some half-effort excuse (i.e. "Foreign rice is not compatible with the special Japanese cuisine") and the population will just nod and resignedly pay out twice as much as they used to for something. The Japanese government has shown itself more than willing to screw the people on something (i.e. cover up EU report on impending mad cow danger in Japan in order to protect the Japanese cattle industry, only to have mad cow break out months later), and even after the awful truth is revealed, the people just sigh and go on.

In such a situation, I have a hard time seeing how overzealous copyrights are going to be prevented. A commercial interest stands to benefit so the government will be thrilled at the idea. And the Japanese people themselves will simply sigh, and continue going about their business.

I apologize if I may have offended anyone, these generalizations are simply the situation as I see it.

"File Rogue" website (4.00 / 2) (#17)
by shellac on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 12:05:35 PM EST

Curious k5ers can download this "file rogue" program. The page is in japanese. You can run it through babelfish, but it is quite easy to navigate to the download link without translation. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks like one version might be in English.

Thanks... (none / 0) (#19)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 09:20:31 PM EST

... I like to listen to Japanese chicks singing incomprehensible stuff in pop songs. This is a great way to get that sort of stuff.

[ Parent ]

Huh? (2.00 / 2) (#18)
by autopr0n on Sat Mar 16, 2002 at 06:34:22 PM EST

I'm a bit confused, wasn't the fast and the furious soundtrack copyprotected and released in the US a couple months ago?

Copyprotection on CDs is crap. You can't take a fundementaly uncopyprotected format and try to hack on protections and expect it to work well or be effective.

There are lot of other issues at stake here then Copy protected CDs, and Japan's IP laws have always been a lot more stringent then the USs (if you can belive that...)

[autopr0n] got pr0n?
autopr0n.com is a categorically searchable database of porn links, updated every day (or so). no popups!
BoA (4.50 / 2) (#21)
by acoustiq on Sun Mar 17, 2002 at 02:02:15 PM EST

Sorry, but you got your BoA's wrong. The Korean BoA (Beat of Angel) who performed Every Heart (among many other great songs like "Don't Stop Now" and "ID; Peace B") is different from the U.K. Boa who wrote Duvet. And as for "internationally obscure," it only depends on what music you're into; BoA is incredibly popular in the k-pop scene, for instance. One could call Utada Hikaru or Ayumi Hamasaki obscure outside of Japan, but that doesn't mean there aren't (tens of) thousands of fans outside of the native country; a few hundred on WinMX is not surprising.

"When someone says, 'I want a programming language in which I need only say what I want done,' give him a lollipop." - Alan Perlis
Copyright And Copy Protection In Japan | 23 comments (11 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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