Japan has passed a revised Copyright Law extending copyright protection for movies and animated films from the current fifty years to seventy following the date of release. The new law goes into effect in January.

The Japanese film industry has campaigned long and hard for this revision. The copyrights on films from the 1950s have begun to expire, opening the way for cheap video and DVD knock-offs of masterpieces by Ozu, Mizoguchi and other Golden Age directors.

The new law, which passed through the Lower House of Parliament on June 12, also reduces legal barriers to companies seeking compensation from video and CD pirates, who will now have to pay victims the list price of the pirated products, times the number of units sold.

On the other hand, the new law will make it easier for schools to use copyrighted materials for educational purposes, without first seeking permission from rights holders.

By passing the new law Japan is bringing its copyright practices in line with those of other advanced countries, where the trend is toward longer periods of protection for rights holders.