Top Court Rules Music Students Not Subject to Copyright Fees

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Supreme Court building

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Supreme Court on Monday upheld a lower court decision not to allow music copyright management body JASRAC to collect copyright fees from students at music schools.

The top court rejected an appeal by JASRAC, or the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers, finalizing the decision made by the Intellectual Property High Court last year to collect such royalties only from teachers at music schools.

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 only a way to achieve this.

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.

Some 240 music school operators claimed that the high court’s decision that the main body of performance was the students themselves 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 from them.

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 was for the purpose of being heard.