New issue of Music & Copyright with Japan country report

The latest issue of Music & Copyright is now available for subscribers to download. Here are some of the highlights.

ECJ clarifies the copyright infringement rules concerning hyperlinks
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that the posting of a hyperlink on a website to works protected by copyright and published without the author’s consent on another website does not necessarily constitute a communication to the public, so long as the person that posts the link does not seek financial gain and acts without knowledge that the works have been published illegally. The Dutch Supreme Court had asked the ECJ for clarity in a case brought by Sanoma Media, the local publisher of Playboy magazine, against GS Media, owner of the online news service GeenStijl. Sanoma had accused GeenStijl of repeatedly posting links to websites hosting unauthorized Playboy photos of the Dutch TV presenter Britt Dekker. Although the case centered on photos, the ruling could have major implications for a wide range of media services and search engines.

MCSC reports another record year for royalty collections in China
Royalty collections in China are on something of a roll at the moment with total income for authors and publishers last year rising sharply. In September the local authors’ society MCSC published its business report for 2015, confirming that total collections had increased for the seventh consecutive year. In addition to a record total, collections grew at the fastest rate since 2011, with domestic and foreign income both registering growth. Despite only a slight rise in digital income, the collection source was the biggest single income stream for Chinese authors and publishers. The growth predicted in the uptake of digital music services in the next few years should provide a significant boost for digital collections. Although MCSC welcomed the positive results, the authors’ society noted that it been forced to take out a high number of copyright infringement lawsuits against various music users. MCSC did note an improvement in the legal environment and copyright law enforcement.

Flexible pricing is key to longer term music subscription growth
Music subscriptions have quickly become the mainstay of the recorded music sector. The leading streaming services are boosting record company earnings and returning global trade revenue to growth after many years of decline. The number of subscribers to the likes of Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal is continuing to rise, and consumer interest in music access rather than ownership is showing no signs of slowing. Perhaps surprisingly, the business model behind music subscriptions has changed little in the short time that the now-familiar brands have been operating. In most developed markets, there is a standard price across different streaming services and little difference in the amount of songs they offer. Free access is probably the biggest distinguishing factor, with some services maintaining an advertising-supported tier while others limit free access to a trial period. There is, however, a likelihood that some changes will have to be made to maintain the momentum. Because offering exclusives is currently a contentious move, streaming services may have to consider adjusting their prices to ensure future success.

Japan country report
In addition to the usual set of music industry statistics and news briefs, the latest issue of Music & Copyright includes a detailed Japan music industry report. Japan is the second largest recorded music market in the world. According to the IFPI, the country ended 2015 behind the US in terms of overall trade revenue but was comfortably the global leader for trade income from sales of physical formats. One of only two Asian countries in the global top 10 (South Korea is the other), Japan is unique in several ways, with trade revenue from sales of physical formats still accounting for more than 80% of total record company income. After several years of decline, digital earnings have started rising again and subscription services are growing rapidly. The dominance of major record companies is being challenged by a number of local independent companies. Japan boasts one of the world’s largest authors’ societies in terms of royalties collected. It also has a buoyant live sector.

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Music & Copyright is published by Ovum.