Google inks Japan copyright pact for YouTube

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TOKYO -- Google and one of Japan's largest copyright organizations are working together to enable YouTube users to upload video clips of themselves performing their own versions of Japanese hit songs.

In a country where karaoke has long been popular, the agreement breaks new ground for YouTube owner Google, which has been in dispute with Japanese rights holders for several years over the uploading of music and video clips.

Japan Rights Clearance Inc. said Thursday that the local arm of Google will pay an undisclosed royalty for one year for permission for wanna-be pop stars to perform any of the 5,000 songs to which it holds the rights, JRC spokeswoman Miki Imai said.

The payments will be distributed to the music publishers holding the copyright to the lyrics and music, based on the number of times a song is performed.

The agreement could pave the way for similar links between Google and YouTube and other rights holders, including Japan's largest, the Japan Society for the Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers.

"The agreement we have signed with Google is the first of its kind in Japan, although we expect other rights organizations to follow suit soon," Imai said.

A similar deal between JASRAC, which controls more than a million Japanese songs, and video sites run by Yahoo! Japan already is in place.

"Japanese people like karaoke and, particularly at this time of year, we find lots of young people marking the spring end of the school year by making music videos of themselves and their friends," Imai said.

Songs controlled by JRC include tunes by the Japanese ballad bands Mr. Children and Spitz and rock band L'Arc en Ciel.

The deal permits people to sing the lyrics and play the music, but it will remain a breach of copyright to sing along to an artist's recording.

"Now they will be able to upload those videos onto YouTube," said Imai, who declined to reveal the value of the deal.
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