Another JASRAC arrest

JASRAC, the copyright enforcement association for Japan’s music industry, has described criminal charges and arrests for copyright violators as rare. Yet less than 3 weeks after reports came out of a JASRAC-inspired arrest of a restaurant owner for singing the Beatles comes another arrest. This time, a man has been thrown in jail for distributing mobile phone ring tones on his website without permission.

CNET reports that similar to the recent arrest, JASRAC had repeatedly warned the 45-year-old suspect from Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, since June 2002 to stop allowing people to download copyrighted songs from his website. In February 2003, the organization got the man’s ISP to delete the ring tones under the “ISP Liability Restriction Law” (author’s translation). However, the man continued to operate his website by linking to the files from a different source. The ISP shut down his site again in 2004, but JASRAC noticed the site was back up in April 2006. The association called the police after the man ignored a warning letter, and on November 27, the man was put in jail, charged with violations of reproduction rights and rights of public transmission as defined in Article 119 Section 1 of the Copyright Law.

In other JASRAC related news, the association recently co-released a report with the Association of Copyright for Computer Software (ACCS) estimating that monetary damage from copyright infringement of software, music, films, manga, etc, using the Winny peer-to-peer file sharing software (whose creator was arrested in 2003) amounts to about 10 billion yen (about USD$86 million), based on an estimate of the retail value of each file currently available for download using the software as of October 10. This is a pretty sloppy estimate, and it only goes to show how comparatively well-policed piracy is in Japan, especially when you compare that to the RIAA’s estimate that piracy loses the US music industry $4.2 billion annually in worldwide sales.

Elderly restaurant owner arrested for performing Beatles songs at his establishment

A few days ago, the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC, an artist copyright lobby similar to ASCAP/RIAA) was arrested for performing copyrighted music by artists including the Beatles at a restaurant he owned. Joi Ito posted an outline of the initial coverage of this incident, but I’m here to pass along some more detailed information, gleaned from J-cast, an online news site:

Arrested for performing the Beatles!

The owner of a restaurant (age 73) was arrested for holding live performances of songs whose copyrights are under tha management of industry association JASRAC without obtaining the group’s permission. Cases of copyright law violations that lead to arrest are extremely rare. JASRAC has commented that “there was no other way,” but criticism of JASRAC, who filed the criminal complaint, have arisen on the Internet.

According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Agency (MPA), the man is accused of copyright violation for performing The Beatles’ “Here, There, and Everywhere,” “Liverpool and All the World!” etc, which are managed by JASRAC, in his restaurant on the piano and harmonica for his customers without receiving JASRAC’s approval.
Continue reading Elderly restaurant owner arrested for performing Beatles songs at his establishment

USJ’s Xmas tree almost certainly pissing off KWBB workers

Nikkei gives shameless free promotion to Universal Studios Japan’s Christmas festivities. This year, like most others, the park has an enormous Christmas tree as the centerpiece of its nightly Christmas-themed fireworks jamboree:

USJ xmas tree im20061102NN002Y4980211200613.jpg

Ah, memories… I used to work as a hamburger cook at the KWBB hamburger restaurant at USJ, which was located right next to the big tree at Christmastime. Though I was explicitly banned from criticizing the theme park when I was an employee, I feel that 3 years is sufficient leeway for me to complain about how annoying it was for us to listen to the ultra-perky Disneyland ripoff that passed for a Christmas show every night as I toasted buns and burned myself on the industrial-strength hamburger grill. Occasionally, the closing shift would end just as the Xmas show (and non-xmas park-closing shows) reached its finale, allowing me to catch the tail end- lots of explosions, lots of jetskiing, lots of loud lipsynching to 50s doo-wop standards as hundreds of Japanese middle class families looked on in ultra-earnest wonder.

Now don’t get me wrong – your average visitor will no doubt find USJ an enthralling thrill of Hollywood cinema come to life, and the Christmas fireworks show at closing time can be an excellent end-cap to a day filled with ET rides and Terminator 2 action shows.

It’s just that for me, hearing the same bit every day got to be excruciating, just like hearing the same 20 American pop songs (“Happy Ending” by Avril Lavigne and “In da club” by 50 Cent in addition to standard 80s songs like Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf”) over and over can get tiring, as in any job. One song that I never got tired of for some reason was “Magnet and Steel” by Walter Egan, a song used as “atmosphere” music just outside the restaurant.

My all-time favorite USJ attraction was the Universal Monsters Live Rock And Roll Show™, the ultimate in high-concept irony in which the famous “Universal Monsters” led by none other than a wisecracking Beetlejuice, croon topical pop songs (as of 2003 featuring “Smooth” by Carlos Santana feat. Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas). Quoth the corporate literature:

Beetlejuice cranks up Dracula, Wolfman, Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein for a mega-monster rock show filled with screamin’ demons and wailin’ guitars.

\m/ !!! Watch these video clips of the rockin’ monsters covering Bon Jovi and Kiss to see how awesome it really is. This clip of the Orlando version of the show is a bit more topical (Outkast’s “Hey Ya” makes an appearance – rock!).

Hikki’s mom: high-stakes drug trafficker or poor business planner?

This is a fun story:

Junko Utada, the mother of once-awesome now-lame best-selling pop singer Hikaru Utada, was detained at JFK Airport back in March. She was spotted acting rather strangely (screaming into a telephone and appearing ill) prior to boarding a flight to Vegas.

When investigators searched her luggage, they discovered she was carrying over $400,000 in cash, two boxes of somebody else’s checks, and a lease agreement to a storage unit in Manhattan. She made up a weird story about donating her casino winnings to a foster home in Vegas, but the DEA agents decided that she was probably involved in drug smuggling, and so now the government has filed suit to have the money forfeited to the feds.

It’s a very weird situation, but it’s also not entirely clear why Hikki’s mom would be running drug money around. I’m skeptical, at least. Perhaps she just got caught in the midst of a poorly-planned tax avoidance scheme. Or maybe she just never got over her clueless Japanese tourist phase.

History of Enka Part 1 of 2

“Enka” is a term referring to a particular genre of Japanese music. It is similar in spirit if not in style to US country music – in other words it sings about the traditional downhome values of Japan and beatifies the past to a certain extent. Here‘s an example of it on YouTube “The Red-bean Camelia is the Flower of Love”. Similar music is popular in most of Asia (including Vietnam, China, and North and South Korea).

What many people don’t know, however, is that enka was not always the music of the status quo (from Wikipedia):


Enka was originally a product of the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement. The songs were used as a way to put political statements and messages criticizing clan politics into song. In other words, they are songs that satired politics, and the word “enka” (literally “speech song”) is said to have had its roots the late 19th century when public speeches were harshly repressed, causing speeches to be replaced by singing songs. Even prior to that, there were songs that satired politics, but afterward the name “enka” stuck. However, as time passed the meaning of the word evolved and “enka” is no longer used to refer to songs including political content. From the latter part of the Meiji Era, enka singers came to sing socially satirical songs with emotional themes. In the Taisho era, some enka singers began to incorporate elements of Western music. This was the time of Shunyo Tottori‘s debut (listen to a cover/karaoke of Tottori “Caged Bird” here). His “Caged Bird” captivated a generation of Japanese. In the Showa era, foreign record labels opened operations in Japan, and a new era came to Japan in the form of the recording system. At that time Western-style performers came into fashion and enka gave up its top position in pop culture.

“Aaaa, kare kara da! BABY!”

Courtesy of YouTube, some old-school Japanese hip-hop so charming in its lameness that it’s begging to be sung at karaoke on the next office trip.

Quoth Wikipedia:

Unarguably the group’s biggest song, selling millions. The lyrics are often thought of as simple with no heavy social commentary. (Although this is similar to a lot of Japanese hip hop of the time.)

Da yo ne.

Koizumi has one thing to thank Kim Jong Il for

The Asahi reports that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, while having a dinner meeting with attendants including LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe on the evening of July 6th said, “I’m glad that the Taepodong didn’t come flying while I was at Elvis’s estate.” One attendee said in response, “The Prime Minster does have good luck,” to which several others agreed.

Earlier post on the PMs visit to Graceland here.

Anti-American Japanese song “American Spirit” by The High-Lows

The High-Lows are a now-defunct Japanese rock band whose sound mixes a tinge of American doo-wop with a mallet over the head dose of youth nostalgia. Though not a huge fan, I picked up one of their CDs back in the day after hearing that they were the successor band to the influential late 1980s J-punk band The Blue Hearts (“Linda Linda” remains one of my favorite songs).

Despite the clear US influences in his band’s music, guitarist/songwriter Masato Mashima felt like 2002 (runup to the Iraq war) was an appropriate time to let us know what he thinks about Americans in his fun piece of album filler entitled “American Spirit” from the album angel beetle. Here’s a translation (lyrics in Japanese available here as culled with some difficulty from

Crush the colored races/Make the rules so they benefit me
Don’t admit my mistakes/That’s the American Spirit

Kill Kill Kill John Wayne-style
You’re an impudent bunch for a colored race

Hey! You say you can’t obey me?!
Hey! Who do you think I am?!

American/I’m an American/I’m the World Champion, baby
American/I’m an American/Unlimited justice, baby

Beat up the badguys/I even went to the moon, you know!
Ain’t I cool? Ain’t I smart?

I don’t understand your sadness,
But please, understand my sadness

Little help?

Reader mail on our ever-popular “Fuck Zapan” Post:

Mr. Berman (of Mutant frog)

I stumbled across your posting on the song F_UCK ZAPAN, and was so offended that I looked up information in the Internet to find out more information about this racist hate.

However, I checked DJ DOC’s Japanese website, and they emphatically deny that they were the group responsible for this single. It’s a song by the indies band Kudara.

Since I don’t read Korean, would it be possible to find the source that lists the artist for this single? Maybe we could check the Korean indies chart to see if this song even made it to #2 on the indies chart.

Your help would be appreciated. Right now, a Japanese band (DJ Ozma) has made a cover of DJ Doc’s Run to You, and so interest in DJ Doc has run high in Japan. If you read
Japanese, you can read about the rumors of DJ Doc and F_ck Zapan at:

Indeed, it would be um, irresponsible of us to…you know.. report facts without checking them out, right? So, my Korean brethren: who feels like taking a trip to the library and looking up chart information? Little help here? Does this so-called “Kudara” group exist? If so, did it include any members of this DJ DOC group?

Before we go that far, thanks to the rise of easy video sites like, we can compare the original anti-Japan rap and songs that are verified to be by DJ DOC.

Here‘s the original song. Give it another listen, why don’t you?

Now let’s listen to that “Run to You” song – it’s a very professionally produced remix of Nirvana’s “Come as you Are”! What about “Street Life“? Different! Watch as these thugs rock out in their rollerblades! None of the amateurish qualities of the anti-Japan song. These DJ DOC people seem like actual professionals who might even be above using Starcraft samples. If it’s really not DJ DOC, then we at MF certainly owe them an apology.

Now here are some more clips available at the website of major Korean broadcaster KBS (clips require Windows Media Player). Here we learn that the DOC stands for “Dream of Children”… makes me think more of the Neverland Ranch than “street life” but whatever.

But I have to admit… the chubby guy with the blond hair does sound like one of the guys in the “Fuck Zapan” song… could it be that the Fuck Zapan group was some kind of precursor to DJ DOC? According to the KBS biography,

However, from their 4th album, the hip-hop group started to experience some difficulties in performing in public. As the lyrics of some songs contained vulgar and too direct expressions of criticizing the society and sexual depictions, some words had to be changed in order to be performed in public. Although there were some obstacles in pursuing their music, DJ DOC still managed to record a hit, probably their biggest, with the song “Dance With DJ DOC” included in their 4th album.

This is too confusing! We need our Korean friends to look this up for us please!