Japan to Expand Fair Use in Copyright


Japan is preparing to grant more “fair use” in its copyright laws that is intended to increase competition and bring the nation’s intellectual property laws more in line with the United States and other industrialized nations.

Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. 107) sets out certain exceptions to a creator’s copyrights. These exceptions are generally known as “fair use” exceptions. A person other than the creator of the original work may use the work for purposes of “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research.”

Japan’s copyright laws are more strict. The current laws prohibits any copying of other people's works or distributing them on the Internet or elsewhere without permission. Present exceptions to the Japanese law are copying works for personal use at home or for use in educational contexts, such as schools.

In reality, enforcement has been sporadic as to personal uses in Japan. The new law is designed to recognize the “practical reality” of everyday uses, particularly on the Internet, and to open up the possibility of competition with foreign business that have more copyright freedom than presently available to Japanese industry.

The changes are not surprising. As the economy becomes more global, we’ll continue to see more nations align their intellectual property laws in the interest of competition. This is especially true when, as in Japan, the practical realities of enforcement were mostly aligned with the proposed changes anyhow.

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