Japan’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision on Monday not to allow music copyright management body the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers to collect copyright fees from students at music schools.
The top court rejected an appeal by JASRAC thereby finalizing the decision made by the Intellectual Property High Court last year to collect such royalties only from teachers at music schools.
Music schools subject to collection of copyright fees are believed to total some 6,700 across Japan and most of them have not paid the fees. With copyright fees arising from teacher performances now set to be charged to music schools, observers said lesson fees collected from students may be affected.
The top court’s First Petty Bench, presided over by Justice Takuya Miyama, ruled that the intention of student performances of songs was to acquire and enhance skills under the instruction of teachers and that performance was a way to achieve this.
As teachers only provide support to students who play songs voluntarily, it cannot be said that music schools violate copyright through student performances, the petty bench concluded.
In an oral proceeding in September prior to the top court’s ruling, the JASRAC side said that music schools obtain profits by choosing songs and asking students to play them as instructed by teachers and that the schools were the main users of such songs.
The plaintiffs, or some 240 music school operators, claimed that the high court’s decision was appropriate.
In March 2021, the Intellectual Property High Court made the ruling to collect copyright fees only from teachers in response to a petition filed by such school operators to confirm that JASRAC has no rights to collect royalties.
In February 2020, Tokyo District Court supported JASRAC over its collection of royalties for music played by teachers and students in lesson time at music schools.
The copyright law protects the right to perform music to be heard by the public. The focus of the lawsuit was whether preforming music during a lesson falls under that protection.