Feagufd: music/noise--21st-Century Alternatives
Opera / Internet / Noise

Copyright and the Internet

TM: Finally, I'd like to ask you about copyright issues. You submitted a text recently to the Asahi Newspaper concerning the role of JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers).

SR: Well, it relates to much of what we've already been talking about here today, but I don't believe that with the Internet we've merely added one more mass medium to the mix. Those in charge of monitoring musical copyright laws behave as though the Internet were a natural extension following LPs and CDs. You know, "Here's a new distribution medium, and we should, of course, be in charge of policing it." They're saying that "We must act as an agency on the Net," and I don't agree.

The text that went into the newspaper was a report of my presentation before JASRAC's monitoring body, the National Agency for Cultural Affairs' council on copyright issues. It's not a text that will change anything. It's just one more government council that meets every week, and invites a different speaker every week, and listens to their opinion. Nothing more. What's interesting is simply the fact that there are people in the world with these opinions, who assert them, and are invited to "on high" to do so. The next step is for me to go directly to the body I've authorized to administer my intellectual properties, JASRAC, and present my case to them. [On July 2nd, Mr. SAKAMOTO went to JASRAC and presented his request formally.-ed.]

Musical copyright includes things such as performance rights, etc. . . . altogether I think that there are about seven categories of license. According to JASRAC's present rules, all seven must be controlled by JASRAC: there are no partial listings, no exceptions. They must control all, or nothing. It is their rules, and those who've signed their contracts are expected to follow them. So when the Internet comes along, with its new potentials for distribution, considering distribution there as a separate issue goes against the very heart of JASRAC's policies, and they absolutely refuse to budge on the issue. Because I'm demanding that they recognize the Internet as a separate case, it creates quite a standoff.

The simplest way to solve it is for me to quit authorizing them to protect my copyright. You know, "We are of a different opinion, so I respectfully relieve you of your contractual obligations towards my musical properties." But that leaves me in a fix. I can't try and track down all of the times and places where my music is being used on TV and whatnot. And in this country there is only one organization for monitoring musical composition rights. You would think that someone would consider it an obvious breach of anti-trust laws, but that's the status quo, and it's just being rammed down our throats without recourse. Since I don't have an option, I have to get them to recognize my position. It's the only way open to me.

With all existing rights it's only natural that jobs too big for the individual are consigned to large organizations. However, when it's a job that can be effectively managed by the individual, I believe that the option should be kept open to let the individual look after themselves. Projects on the Net can be managed by an individual, and I believe that I should be allowed to decide to manage my web presence myself, while still asking them to monitor other media, and collect a handling charge for doing any task which I authorize them to do. I believe that this is the normal way to conduct business. Sooner or later there will be organizations on the Internet capable of managing copyright issues. Because the Net does not involve only one country, there will naturally be many agencies which will appear, not bound to any one country's laws, free to compete within a global market for suppliers bearing valuable intellectual properties and sellers interested in them. It's normal market logic. Price would come down, service would go up, and the users would get the best deal that competition can provide.

The biggest difference between the Internet and other media is, to go back to our very first topic, the difference between analog and digital. Music has always been imprinted, in some way, on a medium in order to be sold. Thereby we have a music industry which is based on things being produced, managed, transported and sold, and the present music industry is made up of companies all along this chain. The chain has remained unbroken, from record company to sales venue, since reproduction technologies were invented—since music first became analog.

Now, with the Internet, music can be distributed in its digital state, and the whole industry is about to be turned on its head. Music becomes the property of its producer, not his management office. It can go directly from the artist to the end user—without passing through agencies of any kind. This is pretty revolutionary. I can't help the people who deal in the material aspects of the industry when they tell me that they have a right to control my music. All I can tell them is do what they do well in the "material" world. Then, if JASRAC, or anybody else, wants to come onto the Net, and offer competitive price/service contracts, it's not up to me to deny them their right to compete.

(This interview took place at ICC on June 18th, 1998.)
photo: OHOTAKA Takashi

Born in Tokyo in 1952. Graduated Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music with a Master's Degree. In 1978, formed YMO (Yellow Magic Orchestra) together with HOSONO Haruomi and TAKAHASHI Yukihiro, and immediately became recognized internationally for their unique "techno pop" stylings, and an important force in Japan's domestic pop scene. Since the break-up of YMO in 1983, SAKAMOTO has been active in a number of media including music, motion pictures, publishing, advertising and the Internet. He is especially well known worldwide for film soundtracks including Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence and The Last Emperor (for which he shared the Academy Award for "Best Soundtrack for a Motion Picture" with co-composers David BYRNE and CONG Su). His numerous other achievements include having been chosen to compose the theme song for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, and the recent nationwide tour with Orchestra "f."

TANABE Mitsuru
Storyteller and Art Historian, fluent in six languages. After studying art history at Harvard University, Ms. TANABE has researched art history in 15 countries. Since her return to Japan she has published several works, including Japan's first English language storyteller novel The Dawn of English Studies. Ms. TANABE is also active as a critic, essayist and lecturer.

All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction, storage or transmission of this interview in whole or in part in any form or by any means without the prior permission of SAKAMOTO Ryuichi/Kab Inc., TANABE Mitsuru and the publisher is strictly prohibited.

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