Japanese recording companies are struggling to catch up with the Internet and the advances in digital recording technology that are transforming their industry. In the US, recording labels want a bigger slice of Apple's success in digital music by seeking higher prices on downloaded songs. Japan's music industry has a different idea: putting a fee on iPods.
The industry has asked the Japanese government to charge a royalty, to be added to the retail price of portable digital music players like the popular Apple's iPod, Money earned from the fee, which will be probably be 2 to 5 percent of the retail price, would go to recording companies, songwriters and artists as compensation for revenue lost from home copying.
The Japanese recording industry has already succeeded in slowing the arrival of Apple's iTunes music download service to Japan through its reluctance to negotiate licensing deals.
Apple opened a Japanese version of iTunes in August, two years after its introduction in the United States, but without songs from the major Japanese labels like Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Japan, which still have not signed licensing agreements.
ITunes received a warmer welcome from Japanese consumers, who bought one million songs in the first four days, according to Apple.
The proposed fees in Japan come as the music industry in the United States appears to be jealously looking at Apple, whose iPod and iTunes dominate their respective global markets. Record executives in the United States have recently said that they wanted to renegotiate and raise prices of songs sold by iTunes when licensing agreements expire next spring.
The proposed fee would affect portable digital players that store data on internal hard-disk drives and flash memory computer chips - which include not only iPods but rivals like the Sony Walkman and other portable devices.