February 5, 2017 1:00 pm JST

Asia's first music creators alliance

Japanese composer leads new body advocating rights in digital music era

AKIRA KOBAYASHI, Nikkei senior staff writer

TOKYO -- As internet access and incomes grow across Asia, so too has the size of the music market in the region -- along with the need for copyright protection.

Last November saw the launch of the Asia-Pacific Music Creators Alliance (APMA), the first regionwide body established to protect creative rights in Asia's burgeoning music industry.

"Asia's music markets are expanding rapidly," said Shunichi Tokura, the first chairman of the organization. "But people aren't really aware of the rights of music authors yet."

Tokura was the songwriter behind many Japan's hits in the 1970s and 1980s. As APMA chief, the 68-year-old now oversees activities in 12 countries and 3 territories in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, China, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

"I think music creators in the region should work together to protect their rights and profits," he continued. "That will help discover and educate future talent, too."

From 2010 through March 2016, Tokura served as chairman of the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers. In 2014, the president of the International Council of Music Authors approached Tokura, asking him to lead the establishment of a body to oversee music licence issues across Asia, particularly in places where no active copyright promotion bodies exist.

Rapid shift

Listening habits have dramatically changed with the rise of digital music downloading and streaming sources.

Worldwide copyright fees collected stand at roughly $9 billion today. The Asia-Pacific region accounts for 14% of the total, with Japan alone making up 9%. The establishment of APMA has raised expectations in the industry that higher recognition of music copyright will help increase license revenues.

Tokura has also worked to eliminate a number of constraints on creators in his home country. Having been on the losing side in World War II, Japan has been subject to the wartime prolongation of protection for intellectual property copyrights held by the Allied nations and their nationals. Tokura has fought for that to change, and has also advocated the extention of the country's copyright protection period.

The son of a diplomat, Tokura spent several years abroad in his youth. He wants to help Japan increase its presence overseas on cultural and artistic fronts. Styling himself as a "private ambassador," he now aims to advocate the rights of music creators by making the most of his language skills and global network of contacts.

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