Student Voices: Licensing Content for Use Online

Today in the music industry, digital sales from online stores such as iTunes or Rhapsody, have already begun to replace sales based on physical products such as CDs in many countries in the world. However, in Japan, the situation is entirely opposite, since  the music industry in Japan remains resistant to selling music products online. For example, Sony Music Entertainment is still against licensing its Japanese catalog to iTunes Japan, mainly because Sony does not want Apple competing on its home turf. Also, many big selling pop idols in Japan are unwilling to license their music to digital delivery services.

The problem is illustrated by the following quote from an anonymous industry source:

“The Japanese music industry has fought hard to limit growth of the online music business in order to protect the CD format, and has succeeded to the degree that Japan is now the largest seller of CDs in the world, and it has one of the smallest online businesses among major countries. ”

Other reasons include the ambiguity of the copyright law in Japan and the weaknesses in the court system and administration of law. These kinds of problems, have resulted in Japan’s entertainment industry tending to ignore the Internet, thereby slowing down its expansion.

In order to address these problems, the government made a series or revisions to remove the ambiguity of “cached data”, and attempted to define “fair use” in 2012. Furthermore, the government passed another law that stated that anybody who downloads copyright infringing files can be penalized with up to two years in prison and with a fine upwards of two million yen.

Local telephone companies such as NTT and KDDI have also launched music streaming services although the impact on the market is limited.

There will likely be more revisions protect the copyright online, which hopefully will encourage Japan’s entertainment industry to put more content online.