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…
I 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.
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..?