The Tokyo District Court had recently ordered two companies that digitize customers’ print books to stop operations and pay a total of 1.4 million yen (over in US$14,000) in damages. The two companies, Sundream Co. in Tokyo’s Minato Ward and Doraibareggi Japan in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward, offer a service called “jisui” – literally “cooking for oneself” – alluding to the act of making one’s own electronic booksby scanning print copies into a computer so that users can transfer that new “cooked” e-book to their electronic devices.
In a landmark first such ruling handed down by the courts, Presiding Judge Shigeru Osuga stated, “There’s a chance the companies are violating copyrights.” Seven writers, including novelists Jiro Asada and Keigo Higashino, as well as manga author Kenshi Hirokane, had filed the lawsuit against the two companies, arguing that the two companies were in violation of the Copyright Law, and demanded they terminate their services and pay for damages. Jisui is often employed for a harmless enough purpose, which is to reduce space taken up by print books in shelves. The process has become increasingly popular with the ubiquity of tablets and smartphones, and so companies have started providing jisui services as a result, charging them several hundred yen per book, but usually without the permission of the author.
The defendants had referred to a provision in the Copyright Law that approves the reproduction of copyrighted works for personal use. They argued that they were “merely serving as the hands and feet of their customers” to reproduce books for private use, but the judge dismissed the claim. “We will appeal,” said a Doraibareggi Japan representative. “The ruling is unfair to readers.” A lawyer for the plaintiffs approved of the judge’s decision, saying, “The ruling was meaningful in clearly indicating that making a business out of scanning books without permission is illegal.”