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JASRAC Sues Three Stores for Refusing to Pay Royalty Fees for Background Music, Sees Rise in Subscriptions from Other Stores


JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers), the music licensing corporation that manages copyright for a vast swath of music in Japan, continues its fight against unlicensed use of music it controls. On May 13, 2019, it announced it had filed suits against eating and drinking establishments’ owners in Fukuoka, Osaka, and Kofu cities (far west, west, and central-east Japan), first-time suits in each respective jurisdiction. JASRAC claims these owners repeatedly refused to pay the royalty fees for playing background music (BGM) for which copyright JASRAC has responsibility [1].


The Osaka store owner claimed that when representatives from JASRAC came to demand payment of the BGM use fees, they were disrespectful and gave unsatisfactory reasons for paying. Especially now that his store was targeted, he felt JASRAC is unfair. However, now that a lawsuit has been filed against him, he expressed willingness to fall in line and pay the use fees [2].


JASRAC explained further online that it is fully justified in seeking payment for the royalties due to music creators from establishments using copyrighted songs for BGM, lamenting that since 2002 when music providers were limited and wired, to 2018, when portable players and the Internet have made streaming and playing of music extremely easy, the percentage of stores paying royalty fees has dropped from about 99% to 68% (estimated; up from about 65% in 2014, after which JASRAC began pressing for payment and then filing lawsuits against some who refused) out of about 1.25 million applicable establishments [1]


Since the announcement on May 13, there apparently has been a marked rise in the number of applications to pay the BGM usage fees legitimately, according to JASRAC and other sources. Some suggest this may be caused by concern about lawsuits. [2] Keisen Associates has been covering some of JASRAC’s battles to enforce stricter adherence to copyright standards in Japan for a while now (for example, versus music schools in 2017 and a win against another establishment using BGM in 2018, among other incidents), and while passionate opposition arises, JASRAC seems to be winning much of the time legally and financially. However, will JASRAC weather the resentment of music lovers? Better understanding and further discussion about intellectual property, particularly copyright, may be necessary.


* The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

** For questions or consultation, please contact us for more information.


Taro Yaguchi


[1] Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers, “BGM利用店舗の経営者に対して著作権侵害行為の差止めと損害賠償を請求 [Suits against owners of stores using BGM for copyright infringement, seeking injunction and payment for damages],” press release, May 13, 2019, accessed June 4, 2019.


[2] The Sankei News, “JASRACにBGM利用申請相次ぐ、訴訟影響か [JASRAC receives many applications to use music for BGM, result of lawsuits?],” March 30, 2019, accessed June 4, 2019. 2 pages.










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