IP High Court Dismisses Music School Students’ Copyright Infringement Claim

(No. 10022 (Ne) of 2020, IP High Court (March 18, 2021))


The plaintiffs (those who operate music schools) sued the defendant (JASRAC) for declaratory relief regarding the non-existence of liability for damages for copyright infringement, claiming that the lessons and miscellaneous types of performances played in music schools do not constitute musical performances under Section 22 of the Copyright Act. The Tokyo District Court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim. The plaintiffs (the appellants) then appealed against the court’s decision.

This article discusses whether or not a student’s performance in a music school infringes the musical performance rights set out in Section 22 of the Copyright Act.

Article 2 DECISION

[…] Section 22 of the Copyright Act requires that the performance be made “for the purpose of being heard”. […]

(3) Musical Performance by a Student

In a music school, a musical performance by a student is given solely to a teacher for the purpose of seeking his or her advice and cannot be considered as being given to other students. Therefore, it should be said that a pupil does not give a musical performance “for the purpose of causing it to be heard” by other pupils, and it is equally obvious that the pupil cannot be considered to give the performance. music with the “purpose of making it heard”. he heard” for himself. […]

vs. musical performance actors

[…] For the reasons described above, although it may be said that students voluntarily and independently give musical performances solely for the purpose of improving their own musical performance techniques, etc. and that the appellants carry out certain acts of preparation and development of an environment with respect for the subject and the methods of the musical performances, it is clear that it is difficult to consider the musical performances of the students as those given by the appellants from the point of view of the essence of the students’ musical performances, which are given for the purpose of receiving instruction. Therefore, the actors of the musical performances of the students should be considered as these students. […]

D. Summary

[…] students’ musical performances are given upon payment of course fees by themselves for the purpose of having them heard by a teacher of a specific music school operator based on the course contracts; therefore, they cannot be considered to be given “for the purpose of having them … heard directly by the public”, and it is also considered that the students should not be considered to infringe the rights of musical performance

Section 3 ANALYSIS

In determining whether or not the students’ performance infringes music performing rights, the Intellectual Property High Court considers (1) who is the user of the music run by the appellant (a music school), and ( 2) if the performance is “for the purpose of having it […] heard directly by the public” (Article 22 of the Copyright Law).

Firstly, in view of the above (1), the Intellectual Property High Court cited the Rokuraku II case (Supreme Court, January 20, 2011) as the criterion for determining the user of a work, and ruled that the user of the music is the student.

With respect to paragraph (2) above, as noted in Section 2, the Intellectual Property High Court held that “since the Student’s performance is performed for the ‘purpose of making it heard’ by a teacher at a particular music school on the basis of the lesson contract, and for which the student has himself paid tuition fees, the student cannot be said to be giving the musical performance “in the purpose of doing it […] heard directly by the public” and it is understood that there is no reason to conclude that the student has infringed the musical performing rights”.

The conclusion that the student’s performance does not infringe the musical performing rights administered by the appellant (a music school) is reasonable in view of the fact that the musical performing rights are too broad if damages -interest is granted even to students who buy sheet music, pay the course fees and have a teacher teach them. The rationale for this is also generally accepted.

However, the decision raises a point of concern in that, as a finding of “by the public” (which does not include “exclusive groups consisting of a few people”), no grounds are mentioned as to why for which the teacher constitutes the “exclusive group” to the students (that is, the field could be defined as an “inherent relationship” between the teacher and the students).

This decision is a case that can serve as a reference as to how to consider who infringes copyright and whether that category of performance infringes musical performing rights (“for the purpose of making it […] heard directly by the public”).

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