I want you to know what's going on in current Japanese music industry.
Japan has a lot of small music spots (no DJs!!), such as live Jazz club, live Rock club, and Jazz cafe (just listening to records, cds). These are the places what i want to go first when I be back in Japan. But JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers) starts to kill this invaluable heritage.
JASRAC's act seems applicable to all kind of shops in Japan. You need to pay loyalties for background music of your tiny clothing shop. Much worse, it's incrementally collected from the date of starting a shop.
I believe that listening/playing music is a kind of human right. Of course, we should pay due price for other's creations. But music can not live in a vacuum.
CHANGING ITS TUNE: It's closing time
By KOTARO KONDO, The Asahi Shimbun
After winning its long-playing battle over song royalties with karaoke houses, a music copyright watchdog is telling live jazz clubs, discos and dance schools that it's time to pay the piper.
Some jazz club owners have been stunned to suddenly receive large invoices from the nonprofit Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC). The group has seldom before demanded copyright fees from such nightclubs.
But JASRAC is changing its tune. The association never considered such places exempt, its representatives say. It merely postponed collecting royalties while it fought a 20-year legal battle with karaoke houses.
I thought it was a new kind of fraud, said Naoki Kasugai, who runs Daytrip, a nightclub that offers live music in Nagoya. He received a letter from JASRAC in summer 2003 along with an invoice for a monthly charge of 28,350 yen in copyright fees, covering the entire time his bar has been open since 1997. It totaled a whopping 2.32 million yen.
Kasugai was shocked and puzzled. He had never heard from JASRAC before. He figured someone was trying to con him.
But after receiving a second invoice from JASRAC, he called to find out what was going on.
A JASRAC official came by in person to explain: ``The bands you hire have likely played covers of songs by other composers. We want you to pay the copyright fees on those songs.''
How many cover songs does this account for? asked Kasugai.
We don't know how many copyrighted songs were played here, the official replied.
So we are not charging for each of them. Instead, we are charging on monthly basis.
Kasugai refused to pay.
I never agreed to pay the royalty JASRAC had decided, he said.
They never contacted me for a long time, and then suddenly they are demanding money to cover the past seven years. I'm really angry about the way they are doing this.
He's not alone. Many bar owners long assumed they didn't need to pay any royalties.
But JASRAC is ready to rock and roll, even resorting to court battles.
Lawsuits in themselves are an effective way to spread our message, a JASRAC official says.
Live music clubs in small- and medium-sized cities have been popular with local music fans for years, and many places don't make much profit.
Nonetheless, the association is taking a hard-rock attitude-even if it means some clubs will have to close.
A club in Niigata was sued by JASRAC this year, and it is facing financial difficulties in coming up with the payment.
A Niigata coffee house called Jazz Mama shut its doors after being told to pay about 3 million yen in copyright fees covering the past 10 years.
Owner Masayoshi Sato, 63, says he will have to fork over the royalties, whether he closes his place or keeps on operating.
And if I use my own money for the payment, I won't even be able to claim government welfare, he said.
The Paretto cafe in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, is operated by a group that supports disabled people. It also received a JASRAC invoice in July. The association figures that such places also offer live concerts, and therefore must pay.
A JASRAC official defended the association's stance on the Paretto cafe:
We know they operate for different reasons than other cafes. But we are asking them to pay as much as they can. We can't differentiate such places from others that offer live music.
JASRAC's membership comprises lyricists, composers and the families of deceased copyright holders. The association manages the copyrights entrusted to it by its members. Royalty rates are set by JASRAC and reported to the Cultural Affairs Agency.
For live music clubs, royalties are based on the number of live performances held each month and the club's total capacity.
But the club owners are unhappy, claiming the royalties have been set unilaterally.
It seems as if (JASRAC) is targeting certain places, a club owner says.
JASRAC does not think it has to come to an agreement with every place it sends an invoice to.
Copyright royalties are decided with the representatives of related associations, an official said.
So if club owners are unhappy, they need to make their opinions known through such groups.
JASRAC is also collecting royalties from dance schools and discos.
We have always charged them, the official said, however.
We need to be fair with other places that are paying royalties.
But the fact remains that JASRAC has not always been strict about collecting fees. It changed its tune after winning a 20-year legal battle with nationwide karaoke houses.
A JASRAC representative said about 87 percent of karaoke houses now pay royalties.
But only about 60 percent of dance schools, about half of live clubs, and only a few DJ clubs and discos cough up the cash.
Feeling stronger after winning the karaoke battle, JASRAC's 212 copyright fee collectors are ready to take on other music spots. (IHT/Asahi: November 23,2004)