Japan Gets New Music Copyright Agency


TOKYO-Recently established music copyright agency e-License launched on April 1 what it claims is Japan's first Internet copyright clearance system.
The move follows the ending last November of Japanese authors' society JASRAC's longstanding monopoly on music copyright royalty collection and distribution.
E-License president Akihiro Mino says the company hopes to handle 1 billion yen($8.15million) in copyright collections in its first year of business and 100 billion yen($815billion) in 2005.
E-License's shareholders are Toyota, advertising agency Hakuhodo, NTT Multimedia Engineering, and Mino. The company was established last October, although Mino had been preparing for the launch of this type of business as key member of the Media Artists Assn., a loose alliance of music industry players working to end JASRAC's monopoly.
According to Mino, about 300 Japanese songwriters have so far chosen e-License to act as their licensing agent. He explains that they are drawn from the roughly 40% of Japanese composers and lyricists who are not signed to a standard five-year contract with JASRAC. Until last year's passage of the law ending JASRAC's monopoly, however, they had no choice but to have JASRAC act as their de facto agent.
"We will also handle mechanical royalties and synchronization," besides collecting copyright royalties on new media, such as the Internet and cellphones, Mino says. He adds, "The only thing we won't handle is performance royalties."
According to Mino, JASRAC is far better placed to handle those, due to its nationwide network of offices and inspectors.
E-License says it offers copyright holders a one-stop solution with a wide range of copyright clearance services, flexibility in establishing conditions of use of a copyrighted work with the copyright holder, and flexibility in establishing royalty rates.
For users of copyrighted works, e-License will offer the same kind of flexibility in setting conditions of use of copyrighted works, competitive commission rates, and information on copyrighted works.
E-License plans to conduct most of its business online, which it says will keep its costs down, and it hopes to attract business from Japan's burgeoning independent-label sector.
Mino previously worked for the labels Nippon Columbia and Warner Music Japan, and from 1995 to 2000 he was president of Tokyo-based entertainment/educational software company Oracion. He says e-License plans to expand into other Asian countries once it is firmly established in Japan.