2007: Japanese Works Now in the Public Domain

Matt over at No-Sword has listed and linked to a few Japanese authors who, due to the life+50 years copyright rule, now have all of their works released into the public domain:

Public Domain Day: Japan

Also take a look at a list of many other authors whose works are now in the public domain at Copyright Watch.

Matt links to the author entries at Auzora Bunko, where you can read various full texts of authors. It is also where I first heard about a movement to oppose a lengthening of the copyright term in Japan to life+70. I must admit I was ignorant that there was an attempt to extend the copyright protection in the works. I don’t know how far it has come but I find it deeply troubling. Already the life+50 rule has kept out of the public domain a great many out-of-print, rare, and historically valuable materials that would never see the light of a computer screen, let alone publication which could be easily shared and appreciated much more widely. Some works, such as the writings and recorded musical performances of my favorite traitor, Kawashima Yoshiko, are only in the public domain because she was executed at a young age in the early postwar, and even then it is really hard to get out of the restrictive licenses of archives that contain her now, ostensibly, public domain works.

As has been the case in the United States, which has a ridiculously long, complex, and stifling copyright regime, the main benefactor of any extension would be large corporations. In other cases, I am personally completely unconvinced that the benefits of providing the mere possibility of royalties for several generations of descendants can come close to outweighing the benefit to society as a whole of releasing works into the public domain in a timely manner.

You can read more about the movement against the extension here. They even have their own icon:

You can read more in the Japanese news about the attempt to extent the law here. I personally liked this quote in the article:

著作の多くをフリーで公開することで知られている評論家・翻訳家の山形浩生さんは、保護期間延長に反対の立場だ。「私が2050年に死ぬとして、2100年まで守られていた著作権が2120年まで延びると言われても、『すばらしい! これで安心して創作活動できる!』などと思うわけがない」(山形さん)

In this quote an author by the name of Yamagata Hirô, who is active in the free culture movement says, “If I were to die in 2050 and my copyrights, which are currently protected until 2100, were extended to 2120, I would hardly say, ‘Great! I can now put my mind at ease and be creative!'”

Some more links on the topic:
Wikipedia: 著作権の保護期間
「著作権保護期間の延長を」——権利者団体が要望書 ネット時代も意識
Authors By Year of Death Index

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