Firm's real-time Internet broadcasts of Japanese TV programs ruled copyright violation - The Mainichi Daily News
A company providing real-time Internet broadcasts of Japanese television programs to subscribers overseas was found to be in violation of the Copyright Law by the Supreme Court.
Public broadcaster NHK and five private key broadcasters based in Tokyo brought the suit against Tokyo-based company Nagano Shoten, demanding that it halt its online broadcasting service "ManekiTV" and sought approximately 10 million yen in damages -- demands which were rejected in lower court rulings.
Presiding Judge Mutsuo Tahara of the Supreme Court's Third Petty Bench overturned the lower court rulings on Jan. 18 after judging that the service violates the Copyright Law, and ordered that the case be sent back to the Intellectual Property High Court.
As the ruling effectively indicates Nagano Shoten's defeat, the company is expected to be forced to terminate its online service. The amount of compensation will be determined in deliberations at the Intellectual Property High Court.
According to Nagano Shoten, subscribers purchase a commercially available transmission appliance, which they entrust to the company. With an initial enrollment fee of 10,000 yen and a monthly users' fee of 4,800 yen, subscribers located overseas or in Japan outside of Tokyo can view programs from key broadcasters in real time.
The focus of the lawsuit was whether or not "ManekiTV" constituted an "act of public transmission," which would signify a violation of the broadcasters' copyrights. The judges in the lower courts ruled that the service was a one-on-one relationship between each subscriber and the company, and therefore did not constitute public transmission.
The top court's Third Petty Bench, however, concluded that anyone could subscribe to the service, and that Nagano Shoten had proactively transmitted programs to an unspecified number of people.
Meanwhile, Nagano Shoten President Shuhei Nagano argues: "It's doesn't make sense to strip others of the right to receive useful services in order to protect broadcasters' vested interests."
Nagano intends to continue providing the online service until the Intellectual Property High Court hands down a ruling. It is unknown how many "ManekiTV" subscribers there are currently, but Nagano says that in 2007, there were 74 subscribers.
The ruling on Jan. 18 does not suggest that the transmission of programs from one individual to another is illegal. For example, it is possible for Japanese living overseas to entrust family members or friends in Japan with a transmission appliance in order to watch Japanese television programs elsewhere.