How Copyright Is Handled in Schools and Other Educational Institutions

Outline of this Article

This article is intended as a guide for those who create class materials in Japanese schools and other educational institutions, as well as for those who play a supporting role.

Since 2020, the demand for online education using web conferencing systems and education systems is expanding worldwide due to the influence of the novel coronavirus, and not a few people may be confused about how to handle copyrighted works as class materials. Some of the articles on this site introduce how copyrighted works should be handled when creating class materials for online education in Japan, based on the law.

Please refer to these articles before creating class materials.

This page explains what copyright is in general. Basic concepts, such as what a copyrighted work is and who a copyright holder is, are introduced, primarily based on Japanese copyright laws.

Are Schools Exempt from Copyrights? Article 35 of the Revised Copyright Law

Under Article 35 of the revised Copyright Act, schools and other educational institutions in Japan are allowed to use copyrighted works without permission from copyright holders under certain conditions. This section explains in detail when reproducing copyrighted works and transmitting them on the Internet are permitted.

In classes and other educational activities, it is often necessary to use other people’s materials, such as illustrations, photographs, and excerpts from articles and textbooks. There are certain materials that are free to use or can be freely used for specific purposes.

You may freely use materials in the following four cases.

1. When the material is not copyrighted

Ideas and common expressions are not copyrighted works. In addition, miscellaneous news and current affairs reports that merely communicate facts are not copyrighted works (Article 10, Paragraph 2 of the revised Copyright Law).

Furthermore, the Constitution, other laws and regulations, and court decisions cannot be the subject of an author’s rights (Article 13). Such materials may be used freely.

The duration of copyright begins at the time of the creation of works and in principle lasts until 70 years after death in the case of Japan (Article 51). (There are countries where the term of duration is not 70 years: for example, 100 years in Mexico and 30 years in Iran.)

When the term of the right expires, the work enters the so-called “public domain” and can be used freely.

→ For more information on the public domain, please refer to this page.

3. In the case of copyrighted works where the author has permitted free use or has specified a certain usage policy

There are cases in which authors have indicated their intention to have their work freely used or to have a certain usage policy. The Creative Commons License (CC License) is a tool for expressing the intention to distribute materials under specific conditions while retaining copyright.

→ Please refer to this page for more information about CC License.

4. Use of copyrighted materials that does not require permission

In principle, permission of the copyright holder is required to use copyrighted works that are still within the term of copyright.

However, for a specific purpose or form of use, such as writing a thesis or essay by quoting other people’s work, such works may be freely used without permission of the copyright holders. According to the Copyright Law of Japan, the requirements are listed according to the form of use under Article 30. If the requirements are satisfied, the works can be used without permission; otherwise, you must get consent.

→ Please refer to this page for information on reproduction, etc. in schools and other educational institutions (Article 35).

List of Additional Resources

The Background and Role of the Compensation System for Public Transmission for Educational Purposes / SARTRAS

In Japan, SARTRAS, a designated management organization, was established in 2020 and has become solely responsible for managing the rights related to the use of all kinds of copyrighted works, enabling educational institutions to use them by following a simple procedure.

Websites Collecting Materials in the Public Domain or With a Creative Commons License

Here are links to various domestic and international websites that distribute materials in the public domain or under Creative Commons licenses.

List of Organizations Affiliated With SARTRAS

We recommend that you refer to the terms of service of the publisher in order to confirm whether or not the copyrighted material can be used and the details of how to use it. If you are still unsure about whether or not you can use the material, please contact the publisher directly.

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