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Copyrights and Intellectual Property Rights

Copyrights, together with patents, trademarks and industrial property rights, are part of a group of rights called "intellectual property rights."  While the industrial property rights system is aimed at the development of the industrial economy, copyrights have as its aim the development of culture and the protection of copyright works such as music, paintings, novels, films and computer programs.  The Copyright Law defines a copyright work as a "production in which thoughts or sentiments are expressed in a creative way and which falls within the literary, scientific, artistic or musical domain" (Copyright Law Article 2.  (1)(i)).  

In Japan, copyrights differ from patents in that registration is not a requirement for acquiring the right; the right is born automatically at the time a work is created.  Copyright, in a word, is a right that allows the copyright owner to permit (license) or prohibit the use of a copyright work to a person who wishes to use it.  Therefore, aside from exceptions stipulated in the Copyright Law such as "reproduction for private use," it is necessary to obtain a license from the copyright owner when using copyright works.  

Besides copyrights, the Copyright Law protects the rights of performers (singers and musicians), record producers (record labels and others), broadcasters and cable broadcasters, whose role is to disseminate copyright works to the general public, with rights called "neighboring rights."  For instance, one music CD could include the rights of a lyricist and a composer (copyrights), as well as the rights of a record label and a singer or a musician (neighboring rights).  So to upload music from a commercially available CD to an Internet website, it is necessary to obtain a license from the copyright owner (JASRAC if the work is administered by JASRAC) as well as from the neighboring rights owners.  

Public recognition of copyrights and the extent of copyright protection afforded are said to be barometers of a country's cultural development.  Respecting the important role that copyrights play in society, and to pay copyright owners a fair remuneration when using their works, will in turn lead to the creation of new copyright works and the development of culture.  

What's Copyright