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Commons:Copyright rules by territory/Japan

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Copyright rules of Japan
Shortcut: COM:CRT/Japan
Flag of Japan
Map of Japan
Standard Life + 50 years
Anonymous Publish + 50 years
Government Laws, judgements, notices free
Terms run to year end Yes
Common licence tags {{PD-Japan}}
Berne convention 15 July 1899
WTO member 1 January 1995
URAA restoration date 1 January 1996
WIPO treaty 6 March 2002

This page provides an overview of copyright rules of Japan relevant to uploading works into Wikimedia Commons. Note that any work originating in Japan must be in the public domain, or available under a free license, in both Japan and the United States before it can be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. If there is any doubt about the copyright status of a work from the Japan, refer to the relevant laws for clarification.


Governing laws

Japan has been a member of the Berne Convention since 15 July 1899, the World Trade Organization since 1 January 1995 and the WIPO Copyright Treaty since 6 March 2002.[1] As of 2018 the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an agency of the United Nations, listed the Copyright Act (Act No. 48 of May 6, 1970, as amended up to Act No. 35 of May 14, 2014) as the main IP law enacted by the legislature of Japan.[1] WIPO holds the text of this law in their WIPO Lex database.[2]


Under the Copyright Act (Act No. 48 of May 6, 1970, as amended up to Act No. 35 of May 14, 2014),

  • Standard copyright term: Life + 50 years.[35/1970-2014 Art. 51]
  • Anonymous or Pseudonymous works: 50 years from first publication (if author never disclosed during copyright term).[35/1970-2014 Art. 52]
  • Cooperative works: 50 years from first publication (or creation if unpublished).[35/1970-2014 Art. 53]
  • Films: 70 years from first publication.[35/1970-2014 Art. 54]
    • 38 years after the creator's death if it was published as his work before 1971.[1899-1931 Art. 22-3][1899-1969 Art. 3][3]
  • Photographs: 10 years from first publication (or creation if unpublished) before 1957.[1899-1931 Art. 23]

Note: There is an extension for Axis powers in WWII, which is essentially 11 years added to the copyright protection length.

If the work was also published in the U.S. within 30 days (or it was first published in the United States), it was also protected under U.S. law but not affected by the URAA restoration. See Commons:PD files and Commons:Hirtle chart.

According to the Japanese Copyright Act, copyright subsists for the life of the author plus 50 years (Article 51). If the work is anonymous or pseudonymous, the copyright lasts for 50 years after the publication or the death of the author, whichever is the earlier (Article 52). The copyright of a work in the name of an organization expires 50 years after publication, or 50 years after the creation if the work is not published within 50 years after creation (Article 53). The preceding provision shall not apply when the author registers the work to the copyright office while the protection period specified in the preceding provision (Article 53-2). Since June 18, 2003, cinematographic works are exceptionally protected for 70 years, instead of 50 years, after the publication, or 70 years after the creation if the film is not published within 70 years of the creation (Article 54).

For audio recordings, the term is 50 years after publication. See {{PD-Japan-audio}} for details.

However, all movies produced in Japan prior to 1953 and directed by a person who died more than 38 years ago are in the public domain. See template {{PD-Japan-film}} for details.

Works corresponding to the following are not eligible for copyright (Article 13).

  1. the Constitution and other laws and regulations;
  2. public notices, instructions, circular notices and the like issued by organs of the State or local public entities, incorporated administrative agencies ... or local incorporated administrative agencies ...;
  3. judgments, decisions, orders and decrees of courts, as well as rulings and judgments made by government agencies in proceedings of a quasi-judicial nature;
  4. translations and compilations prepared by organs of the State or local public entities, incorporated administrative agencies or local incorporated administrative agencies of [any of] the materials listed in the preceding three items.

Copyright protection for photographs published on or before December 31, 1956 has been ended, whether the author is alive or not.

It should be noted that the term of protection for works from 1970 or before is the longer of the term under the old Copyright Act and that under the current Copyright Act. This provision especially affects the copyright status of cinematographic works.


Individual works

Date of author's death Date of publication Copyright tag
– December 31, 1945 – December 31, 1923 {{PD-Japan}} + {{PD-old-auto-1923}}
{{PD-Japan}}{{PD-old-auto-1923|deathyear=death year}}
– December 31, 1945 January 1, 1924 – December 31, 1957
January 1, 1971 –
{{PD-Japan}} + {{PD-old-auto-1996}}
{{PD-Japan}}{{PD-old-auto-1996|country=Japan|deathyear=death year}}
– December 31, 1945 January 1, 1958 – December 31, 1970 {{PD-Japan}} + {{Not-PD-US-URAA}}[note 1][note 2][4][5]
January 1, 1946 – December 31, 1968 – December 31, 1923 {{PD-Japan}} + {{PD-old-auto-1923}}
{{PD-Japan}}{{PD-old-auto-1923|deathyear=death year}}
January 1, 1946 – December 31, 1968 January 1, 1924 – {{PD-Japan}} + {{Not-PD-US-URAA}}[note 1]
Others The work is still protected under Japan law.

Anonymous or Pseudonymous works

If the author of the work is unveiled during its copyright term, it is protected as an individual work. e.g. Osamu Tezuka (手塚 治, died in 1989) and his pen name "手塚 治虫" are well-known among people, so his works will be protected in Japan until 2039.

Date of publication Copyright tag
– December 31, 1923 {{PD-Japan}} + {{PD-anon-1923}}
January 1, 1924 – December 31, 1945 {{PD-Japan}} + {{PD-anon-auto-1996}}
January 1, 1946 – December 31, 1968 {{PD-Japan}} + {{Not-PD-US-URAA}}[note 1]
Others The work is still protected under Japan law.

Cooperative works

Date of publication Copyright tag
– December 31, 1923 {{PD-Japan-organization}} + {{PD-1923}}
January 1, 1924 – December 31, 1945 {{PD-Japan-organization}} + {{PD-1996}}
January 1, 1946 – December 31, 1968 {{PD-Japan-organization}} + {{Not-PD-US-URAA}}[note 1]
Others The work is still protected under Japan law.

Old photographs

Date of creation Date of publication Copyright tag
– December 31, 1946 Any date {{PD-Japan-oldphoto}}
January 1, 1947 – December 31, 1956 – December 31, 1956[6] {{PD-Japan-oldphoto}}
January 1, 1957 – (within 10 years) Judged under 1970 Copyright law. (as an individual work or pseudonymous work)
Not published within 10 years from creation {{PD-Japan-oldphoto}}
January 1, 1957 – Any date Judged under 1970 Copyright law. (as an individual work or pseudonymous work)


Works Copyright tag
Part of government works {{PD-Japan-exempt}}
Pre-1953 films directed by a person who died more than 38 years ago[note 3][7] {{PD-Japan-film}} + choose from {{PD-1923}}, {{PD-1996}} (–1945) or {{Not-PD-US-URAA}} (1946–1953)
Other films No one expires copyright yet. (earliest 2025)
FoP (photographs of an architectural work) {{FoP-Japan}} + free license tag for the image
FoP (photographs of the copyrighted artwork or sculpture located in a public space) {{NoFoP-Japan}} (Not accepted on Commons)[8]


Copyright tags

See also Commons:Copyright tags

  • {{PD-Japan-oldphoto}} – for Japanese photos published before 31 December 1956, or photographed before 1946 and not published for 10 years.
  • {{PD-Japan}} – for Japanese non-photographic works 50 years after the death of the creator (there being multiple creators, the creator who dies last).
  • {{PD-Japan-film}} – for films produced in Japan prior to 1953
  • {{PD-Japan-organization}} – for images of the works in names of organizations/companies/corporations 50 years after the publication
  • {{PD-Japan-exempt}} – for works exempt from copyright in Japan



See also: Commons:Currency

 OK The designs of the Japanese banknotes are published as state-issued 'Notifications' (告示, kokuji) which exempt them from copyright protection under Copyright Law of Japan[9] - {{PD-Japan-exempt}} applies to them.

De minimis

COM:DM Japan

See also: Commons:De minimis

Copyright Act Article 30-2, amended in 2012, states:

第三十条の二 写真の撮影、録音又は録画(以下この項において「写真の撮影等」という。)の方法によつて著作物を創作するに当たつて、当該著作物(以下この条において「写真等著作物」という。)に係る写真の撮影等の対象とする事物又は音から分離することが困難であるため付随して対象となる事物又は音に係る他の著作物(当該写真等著作物における軽微な構成部分となるものに限る。以下この条において「付随対象著作物」という。)は、当該創作に伴つて複製又は翻案することができる。ただし、当該付随対象著作物の種類及び用途並びに当該複製又は翻案の態様に照らし著作権者の利益を不当に害することとなる場合は、この限りでない。

Unofficial English translation:

Article 30-2: When creating a copyrighted work of photography, sound recording or video recording, other copyrighted items that are incidental subjects of the work because they are hard to be separated from the item that is a subject of the work may be copied or translated along the work being created (only if they are minor components of the work being created). However, if, considering the kinds of the incidentally included works and the manner of the copying or translation, it unfairly is prejudical to the interest of the copyright holders of the incidentally included works, they may not.

Freedom of panorama


See also: Commons:Freedom of panorama

Copyright Act of Japan (著作権法) allows the reproduction of artistic works located permanently in open places accessible to the public, such as streets and parks, or at places easily seen by the public, such as the outer walls of buildings, only for non-commercial purposes; therefore, such photographs are not free enough for Commons.

Architectural works (i.e., buildings) located in such places may be photographed and the photos may be reproduced for any purposes; §46(iv), which contains the "non-commercial" restriction, applies only to "artistic works". Some buildings like the Tower of the Sun can be regarded as artistic works (discussion).

Note: According to Article 51 of Japanese copyright law, Japan has a copyright lifetime of 50 years after the death of the author (ie. creator/designer) or following "the death of the last surviving co-author in the case of a joint work." Henceforth, the author's works shall become copyright free and enter the public domain.


See also Commons:Stamps/Public domain

  Stamps more than 50 years old are in the public domain (published before 1 January 1969), per {{PD-Japan}}.

Threshold of originality


See also: Commons:Threshold of originality

Logos in the gallery below are  OK to upload. Article 2 of Japanese copyright law defines that a work is eligible for copyright when it is a production in which thoughts or sentiments are expressed in a creative way and which falls within the literary, scientific, artistic or musical domain. [1][2] Japanese courts have decided that to be copyrightable, a text logo needs to have artistic appearance that is worth artistic appreciation. Logos composed merely of geometric shapes and texts are also not copyrightable in general.

  (DR) Letters are a means of communication, shared by anyone. Copyright protection of fonts is limited only to those that raise artistic appreciation as much as artistic works do. (Tokyo High Court 平成6(ネ)1470) [3]
  (DR) Although the shape is stylized, the text is in a normal arrangement and keeps its function of being read as a sequence of letters. (Tokyo High Court 昭和55(行ケ)30, Supreme Court 昭和55(行ツ)75) [4]
  The Court is negative towards recognizing the symbol as a copyrightable work of fine arts, because it is considered merely relatively simple graphic elements. (Tokyo District Court 昭39(ヨ)第5594 [5])

Further reading


  1. a b c d The work may be protected by copyright under U.S. law. because its copyright in the U.S. was restored by the URAA. However, the current policy on Commons is to accept it. This policy may change in the future, depending on the outcome of community discussions. Also, it may be deleted if Commons receive a valid takedown notice.
  2. The work was still in copyright in Japan on the date of URAA restoration (January 1, 1996) because copyright of the posthumous work was valid for 38 years from its publication before 1971.
  3. This may not exclude companie's work. e.g. In 2006, Roy Export Company Establishment sued Japanese company who were copying Sunnyside (1919) and other pre-1953 films directed by Charlie Chaplin. Tokyo distinct court judged that Chaplin held their copyright. They have been protected until 2015 (38 years after his death, according to the older copyright law) or 70 years after their publication, plus more additional period by the wartime prolongation.


  1. a b Japan Copyright and Related Rights (Neighboring Rights). WIPO: World Intellectual Property Organization (2018). Retrieved on 2019-01-268.
  2. Copyright Act (Act No. 48 of May 6, 1970, as amended up to Act No. 35 of May 14, 2014). Japan (2014). Retrieved on 2018-11-08.
  3. Copyright Act 1970, Supplementary Provision Act No. 85 of June 18, 2003
  4. Copyright Act 1899, Art. 4
  5. Copyright Act 1899 (revised in 1969), Art. 52–1
  6. Copyright Act 1899 (revised in 1969), Art. 52–3
  7. 2006 Wa 15552 : The case of the claim for suspension of copyright violation. Court precedent : Search results (in Japanese) (PDF). Court of Japan. Tokyo District Court Civil Division 29 (2007-08-29). Retrieved on 2016-12-30.
  8. w:ja:Wikipedia:屋外美術を被写体とする写真の利用方針 (Criteria for using a photograph of the artwork located in a public space) at Japanese Wikipedia
  9. Per p. 119, 日本のお金 近代通貨ハンドブック 大蔵省印刷局編 (1994) - the link shows the table of the contents only; the main text of the book is not published online.
Caution: The above description may be inaccurate, incomplete and/or out of date, so must be treated with caution. Before you upload a file to Wikimedia Commons you should ensure it may be used freely.