FAQ about Copyright System of Japan

 What is the object of copyright protection?

Copyrights protect every production in the literary, scientific and artistic domain by conferring a certain range of exclusive rights on an author.  In order for every production, that is, a work to be safeguarded under copyright law, a work must be an expression other than a mere idea.  The distinction between an expression and an idea lies at the very heart of copyright law.  Copyright protection for a work applies to the expression of ideas (including thoughts and sentiments) that are contained in the said work.  Therefore, if you are to seek legal remedies against copyright infringement, it is required for someone (an infringer) to copy your expression, not your ideas.  The mere use of ideas which are contained in your work does not constitute copyright infringement.
Take one example: You have written an article on how to make money on the Internet.  Your article (work) will be safeguarded against making and selling of the copies of your article (i.e. the expression) if the said action is taken without your consent.  On the other hand, copyright protection cannot ban anyone from making money using your instructions (i.e. the ideas) contained in your article, nor writing another article on the same subject unless your original expressions are plagiarized. 
The following provision of the TRIPs Agreement and the WIPO Copyright Treaty should be noted:

Copyright protection shall extend to expressions and not to ideas, procedures, methods of operation or mathematical concepts as such.

In addition to the above-mentioned, in order to qualify for copyright protection, your expression must have a certain degree of originality.  However, as a rule, the originality to be required for copyright protection is not so high.  Roughly speaking, a work is original enough to be copyrighted if it reflects the personality of its author (creator).  There are no internationally agreed standards on how to assess the originality.  In any case, however, such a factor as novelty or artistic merit is not taken into account in assessing the originality.

Legal traditions vary as to whether copyright protection comes into force from the moment of a work’s creation or from its fixation in a tangible medium of expression in some form or other.  In this respect, the Berne Convention prescribes as follows:

It shall, however, be a matter for legislation in the countries of the Union to prescribe that works in general or any specified categories of works shall not be protected unless they have been fixed in some material form.

Generally speaking, in such a common law country as the USA or the UK, a work is not copyrighted until it is ‘fixed,’ i.e. copied , recorded, or transcribed in some material form.  On the other hand, in a country such as France or Germany which adheres to the civil law tradition, copyright protection takes effect regardless of whether a work is fixed or not.
In Japan, the fixation requirement is not needed in principle, but as to a "cinematographic work," fixing it in an object is required for copyright protection.

     Kaneda Copyright Agency
     For proper copyright management in Japan

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