For a long time I’ve wondered: How did CD/record rental stores establish themselves in Japan when record labels and artist jimusho wield the greatest power in the music market? These stores totally wrecked industry revenue between ’81 and ’85, and the labels worked actively to shut them down.
So why in the world would the government make rental shops legal in their revision of the Copyright Act in 1985? The Japanese government is not especially well-known to side with consumers over industry associations, and it’s not like the industry didn’t have a good case against this rampant copyright infringement.
Then today, I was reading through some articles about the Japanese music market and found this quote:
Rental shops eventually became another political football between the US and Japan, the American side claiming that ‘rental shops are closely allied to the political lobby of Japanese consumer-electronics and blank-tape manufacturers’ (Guy de Launey, “Not-so-big in Japan” Popular Music 14:2 )
Now this makes sense: The giant consumer-electronics were profiting from the media used to copy records rented at the rental shops. And these companies had much more political clout with the government bureaucracy than the relatively tiny and frivolous music industry.
(I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Copyright Act of 1985 for plumping up my mp3 collection.)