(This was reprinted and revised from the article I had written on Model Electronic website, on Oct 15, 2011.)
On the last post, I wrote that JASRAC basically covers Synchronization Rights as well as other publishing rights, as opposed to ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC focusing on Performance Rights, or Harry Fox focusing on Mechanical Rights. This time I’ll explain how JASRAC defines and covers these rights. I hope this helps you understand our domestic situation around licensing and publishing business, especially if you’re non-Japanese publishers or composers who are looking for sub-publishers in Japan.
How JASRAC defines and covers the publishing rights
JASRAC issues a brochure called “Guide to the Copyright Trust Contract and Membership (English edition, you can download the PDF on “Membership Requirement” page)” where you can see not only what kind of copyrights JASRAC covers but also how these rights are handled in a day-to-day music business in Japan. In the chapter 3. Choices in the Extent of Trust of Rights, there is a chart describing categories of rights and actual utilization forms. I re-visualized and added a few words to the chart for your better understanding, but its basic structure remains the same.
“Basically, JASRAC is entrusted with and administers any and all copyrights owned and to be owned by Trustor. However, Trustor may exclude a part of his/her copyrights from the ones entrusted to JASRAC. Trustor may exclude his/her rights from JASRAC’s administration in accordance with the classification of categories of rights or utilization forms shown below. Please note that Trustor CANNOT exclude on a per work basis.”
Definition and dimension of Mechanical Rights in Japan
You might have noticed something different if you have been familiar with categorization/definition of copyrights in the US. Yes, Mechanical Rights in this chart is not the same as what you normally think of. As you can see supplemental remarks below the chart, JASRAC apparently defines Mechanical as including the (so-called) Synchronization usages such as 5) to 8), which is as contrasted with the general definition that Mechanical Rights should be regarded as different or separated from Synchronization Rights (or vice versa).
To quote Harry Fox Agency’s definition, a mechanical license “grants the rights to reproduce and distribute copyrighted musical compositions (songs) on phonorecords (i.e. CDs, records, tapes, and certain digital configurations)”. As it says, the term Mechanical is normally related to reproduction and distribution of PHYSICAL/DIGITAL MEDIA (format, container) such as CDs, DVDs, digital files, etc.
Certainly, we could understand the usages 5) to 8) from the point of view of MEDIA on which the musical compositions were recorded/reproduced/distributed. But then, where can we find the Synchronization Rights? Don’t they particularly distinguish usages of music being “synchronized with visual images” from other “music alone” usages? Does it mean they care about only “on what” the music compositions work, not “how”?
Mechanical Rights = Recording Rights?
If we think along with the normal definition which is widespread in the international music/media industries, it seems that THEIR Mechanical could be simply paraphrased to a broader term such as “Recording Rights” (though we actually don’t use that ambiguous word) or could be elaborated separately as “Mechanical Rights and Synchronization Rights.”
Eventually, THEIR Mechanical Rights includes all the rights associated with ANY act or situation occurring when you “record/re-record/render/reproduce/duplicate/distribute copyrighted musical compositions (not Master/audio data) mechanically ON/WITH ANY medium.” In other words, it has nothing to do with whether the music is used in sync with visual images or not.
My interpretation of JASRAC’s chart
By keeping these in mind, I made my own interpretation version of this chart, so as to avoid the ambiguity of these terms and bring them close to our familiar definition. AS this chart includes unofficial interpretations just for readers’ better understanding, JASRAC has no liability for the legitimacy of this interpretation.
Since JASRAC actually can administrate all these copyrights together, how I interpret or factorize THEIR Mechanical Rights on the chart wouldn’t affect any of our day-to-day (domestic, NOT international) business AS LONG AS you entrust all copyrights to JASRAC. However, what you might as well remember at the same time is, their original chart also implies that JASRAC and most Japanese publishers don’t necessarily handle Mechanical and Synchronization Rights strictly separately or independently like the US publishers and PROs usually do.
To elaborate more, I’ll show you another quotes from the brochure.
“The following alternatives are not allowed:
– If a Trustor does not entrust JASRAC with 2) Mechanical Rights, he/she cannot entrust the utilization forms 5) to 8) to JASRAC.
– If a Trustor does not entrust JASRAC with both 1) Performing Rights and 2) Mechanical Rights, he/she cannot entrust the utilization forms 5) to 11) to JASRAC.”
You’ll understand what this means immediately. You may exclude and self-administrate Sync Rights as occasion demands. But if you want them to administrate Sync Rights, you have to entrust them with (normal) Mechanical Rights as well (This stipulation could be similar to the one HFA used to have before, according to their description about Synchronization).
Are Sync Rights subordinated to Mechanical Rights in Japan?
We could say that Sync Rights seem to be regarded almost as subordinate rights to Mechanical Rights. Such way of thinking looks container-oriented rather than content-oriented, but it might be inevitable if we consider the fact there has been much less actual occasions when publishers have to negotiate directly with users, as compared with the US. Like I mentioned before, I wouldn’t argue which is better because in reality, it has worked well within Japan and both have pros and cons.
Lastly, I’d like to stress that JASRAC’s classification of copyrights and way of copyright administration apply ONLY to DOMESTIC/INTERNAL operations and do NOT affect INTERNATIONAL/EXTERNAL Sync-licensing operations. Regarding our international sync-license, please refer to the Tutorial page.
I hope this helps. If you have general questions about copyright administration in Japan, please contact to JASRAC. Questions regarding my interpretation on this post, however, should be directed to us.