CD Rental in Japan

By Michael Gakuran | | Japan | 6 Comments |

Most people probably know and accept that copying rented media is illegal in the same way downloading music and films is. So it seems highly laudable that stores would start *renting* media. But in Japan, that’s just the case…

logo-tsutayaI was in Tsutaya (a chain store that sells CDs and such) just yesterday, viewing the racks of rental CDs and DVDs. DVD rental is nothing new for me – we have Blockbuster in the U.K, and it’s drilled into us the illegalities of copying rented DVDs. Japan, too, puts warnings on the rental DVD cases warning would-be copiers of the crime. But renting CDs – that’s pretty strange.

‘Isn’t it obvious that people will go home and rip them instantly?’ I thought.

Not just obvious, but seemingly encouraged. Next to the rows of CDs, there are blank media – CDs, MDs and all the accessories you could want for creating your own pseudo music collection.

tsutaya

Above: A typical Tsutaya CD-DVD rental store in Japan

Back at my host family’s home, I engaged in a heated debate with my host sister about the legalities of copying media.

“It’s illegal! Absolutely! How else would the record companies stay afloat if people were allowed to just copy the CDs and not pay for them?? Absolutely illegal!”

“No, no! It’s fine. We do it all the time. Everybody does it, and they lend the borrowed CDs to their friends!”

Such was the fire that I brought my little laptop downstairs and began scouring the Internet for traces of an answer. I was wrong. Beaten. Trumped. It’s apparently not illegal to copy rented CDs in Japan…Well, thinking about it, why else would they make it so obvious by selling blank media next to the discs..?

Reading up on the issue, I found several sites which talk about the phenomenon. It seems the stores like Tsutaya pay royalties to the record companies like JASRAC to offset the loss of a potential CD sale. In other words, since the consumer will likely just copy the CD instead of buying it, Tsutaya and other rental businesses have to pay enough to cover that loss to satisfy the artists and record companies. It’s apparently called Compulsory Licensing – the ‘compulsory’ part meaning that individual consumers renting the CDs don’t have to get the copyright holder’s permission to copy the CD. Tsutaya and the other stores will have already paid a licensing fee in order to be exempt from the copyright. Detailed on Copyfutures.

Also, apparently there is also a Compensation System in place for private recording of CDs and other media. In other words, the compensation for the loss of a sale of a CD is already included in the price of blank media and other recording equipment. This way the artists and other people involved in the production of the CD, MD (etc) benefit.

Furthermore, according to this post, the reason that CD Rental stores in Japan became legal in the 1985 revision of the Copyright Law was because the big electronics companies profited from the sale of blank media and other recording equipment. Apparently up until 1985, the music industry had been threatened by copying and other such activities, so it might seem strange that the government would legalise CD Rentals. But it seems that these big companies had a lot of influence with the government, more so than the music industry that complained rental stores hurt their sales, hence the legalisation.

Well, I’m not sure on the factual reliability of all that, but it’s pretty fascinating to hear. I guess in Japan I can rent CDs and copy them happily, glowing in the knowledge that I’m on the right side of the law. Just what happens when I take those copied CDs back to the U.K though..?

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6 comments on “CD Rental in Japan
  1. sharifs says:

    According to my Japanese friend everyone does it and it is not illegal to his knowledge. He however strictly pointed out that it isn't illegal for personal use such as listening to the music for yourself later but that copying the music and then selling that copied msuic is definitely illegal and one can be arrested for doing so.

  2. Orchid64 says:

    You're absolutely right that it's not illegal. My guess is that, with computer tracking of rental habits, they can even provide data on the number of times particular releases are rented and can pay proportional fees to the record companies based on what gets rented more frequently.

    When I first arrived in Japan, it was exactly the same as it is now, except that it was blank videotapes and cassettes being sold next to the records and videos for rent.

    This actually is a good system considering the fact that people are going to copy things. It's a form of compensation which is in line with the advancement of technology. The notion that artists will suffer is based on the idea that all providers of content should profit ad infinitum from one work. This is a benefit artists had during a certain era when technology gave them the capacity to duplicate their work and distribute it, but it is something that was not the case through much of the history of man. Musicians and performers performed for money. The did not get paid again and again if they didn't keep working. It's a hard fall for those who are used to getting paid for work they did years or even decades to go, but they have to do what the rest of us do and keep working if they want to keep making money. :-p

  3. Mike says:

    Hey Yoshi. Really? I know what you mean about anti-copy systems on CDs though, but Tsutaya sell blank CDs in their stores right next to the rental CDs! And even though the CDs have copy-protection systems, it’s never stopped me copying them before. Then again, I usually rip them to my computer than make a CD backup. But really, if Tsutaya hadn’t paid licensing fees, how could they go on doing what they are doing so obviously?

  4. Mike says:

    Hey Yoshi. Really? I know what you mean about anti-copy systems on CDs though, but Tsutaya sell blank CDs in their stores right next to the rental CDs! And even though the CDs have copy-protection systems, it’s never stopped me copying them before. Then again, I usually rip them to my computer than make a CD backup. But really, if Tsutaya hadn’t paid licensing fees, how could they go on doing what they are doing so obviously?

  5. yoshi says:

    honestly, I don’t think Tsutaya paid the licemse fees for the consumers..otherwise, no reason that we have anti-cd-copy systems like CCCD.
    As I know, copying to MD is usually considered ok just because MD can’t have the same quality as cd, so it isn’t a complete copy.

  6. yoshi says:

    honestly, I don’t think Tsutaya paid the licemse fees for the consumers..otherwise, no reason that we have anti-cd-copy systems like CCCD.
    As I know, copying to MD is usually considered ok just because MD can’t have the same quality as cd, so it isn’t a complete copy.

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