The Wartime Period Extension

There is a little known copyright extension in Japan known as “The Wartime Period Extension” which extends the duration of copyright protection in Japan for certain works affected by Japan’s involvement in World War II.

Japan currently recognizes foreign musical copyrights for the minimum duration afforded by the Berne Convention (life of the author + 50 years).  However, as part of Japan’s surrender to the Allied powers at the end of WWII, Japan agreed to extend the term of copyright in Japan for works owned by a member of an Allied country (including the US) as a way to compensate Allied copyright owners for the economic loss incurred in Japan during the period of time Japan was involved in the war.  Interestingly, Japan is the only Axis power which provides a copyright extension for Allied works.

The length of the copyright extension depends on the date of publication or public performance of the work, which Allied nation the copyright owner belongs to, and how long the copyright owner was part of an Allied power.  Generally speaking, for US copyrights, the length of the extension is calculated as follows:

  • For US copyrights originally published or publicly performed prior to the Pearl Harbor attack (December 7, 1941), the length of the copyright extension in Japan is equal to 3,794 days (i.e. the period of time between the Pearl Harbor attack and the April 28, 1952 signing of the Peace Treaty of San Francisco which ended WWII).
  • For US copyrights originally published or performed after Pearl Harbor and prior to the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the copyright extension will be limited to the period of time between such original publication or performance of the work and the signing of the peace treaty.  In other words, you only get an extension in Japan for the time your copyright was actually affected by Japan’s involvement in the war.
  • There is no copyright extension in Japan for works registered or written prior to the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, but not published or publicly performed until after the signing of the treaty.

In all instances, the copyright extension is limited to Japan only.  There are no formal notifications required to secure the extended copyright term, but as the extended term commences on the day copyright protection under the Berne Convention would otherwise expire, timely claims are required in order to avail oneself of the full duration of the extended copyright term.