I recently came across this sad story in my referrals:
Live music spots are disappearing one by one in Japan!
I am a live Jazz fan, and often go to Jazz clubs in my home town. Recently I visited one of my favorite clubs and was informed that live jazz was to be canceled at the end of the month.
I couldn’t believe it, and asked why this was going to happen. The owner replied “JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers, equivalent to ASCAP) ordered retrospective fee payments for the last 10 years of the club’s operation. There’s no way I can afford to pay, so I’ve decided to stop live music”. The JASRAC representative then presented a scrap of newspaper with a story reporting a recent lawsuit and subsequent closure of another Jazz club that had fought, and lost, a similar situation. In the end, however, the owner decided to submit to JASRAC’s demands and pay the fees.
JASRAC also refused to negotiate future licensing costs, and stated that a fixed fee must be charged regardless of how many live performances are held. The club could have one live show each week, or a show every day of the year, and the cost would be the same. JASRAC also refuses to reveal how they calculate fees for each club.
In Japan, NHK(National publicly funded television) fees must be paid by all people that own TVs. However some people manage to avoid paying fees, are unaware of fees, or simply slip though NHK’s administrative cracks. When these people are discovered, NHK usually just asks these people to begin payments from the next month onwards. JASRAC, however, demands payments for the past 10 years.
Does JASRAC truly protect the rights of musicians? I often by CDs from musicians playing at live Jazz clubs. I believe live Jazz promotes CD sales and helps artists succeed.
It’s just appalling that JASRAC can nitpick and police even the most minor activities. The hyper-aggressive protection of intellectual property is not just limited to JASRAC, mind you: Johnny’s Talent Agency (the promoters of SMAP etc) fiercely guard their superstars, a practice that leads to odd rivalries and ridiculous news like Takuya Kimura refusing a major movie award for no apparent reason. Disney is also particularly heavy-handed. I read (on 2ch mind you) that Disney once forced a school to remove an image of Mickey Mouse from their pool that was to be used in an event. How can a culture of openness, ambition and imagination flourish when there’s an environment that often punishes even modest forms of creativity?