Tokyo Confidential, the Japan Times column that “summarizes articles appearing in vernacular tabloids”, had been caught up in the Mainichi’s WaiWai controversy. I argued at the time that Tokyo Confidential and WaiWai were very different animals and that the former would be safe from serious repercussions. So I was surprised to hear from PS that TC had been suspended pending “editorial review”. Much later, last Sunday, PS gave me information from an unimpeachable source stating that the Sunday JT would be carrying a notice that the Tokyo Confidential would be discontinued and that the notice would include an apology to the magazines for their unauthorized use. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the notice on the otherwise content-rich online JT, but I’ll take it on faith that it appeared on the realpaper version.
So much for my powers of prediction.
Now, the original source also claimed that some magazines were willing to let JT use summaries of their material but they attached such onerous conditions that JT decided that it wouldn’t be worth the trouble. So my reasoning behind my optimism, that is, the distinction between the two features, still appears to stand. It would be interesting to know just what those conditions were, though, since there must be a level of paraphrasing and even direct quotes that would have enabled JT to clear the fair use threshold, with or without permission. Note that a not insignificant portion of international news in the mainstream dailies is generated by trawling the websites of CNN, NYT, WaPo, ad nauseum.
Here’s something that might shed some light on the weekly magazines’ concerns. You may be aware that Sankei’s Japanese-only website continues to carry many reports that would have belonged solidly in the now-defunct TC or even WaiWai, but nobody to the best of my knowledge is raising a ruckus. But Sankei, the relatively recent online affiliate of MNS, is an anomaly. The Sankei website is uncommonly rich in regard to content, including (from my perspective) verbatim reports of the Prime Minister’s press briefings, official and unofficial, in full. It also stands in stark contrast to the other dailies for its generosity regarding access to its archives. Asahi is at the other extreme, maltreating even its paid subscribers. Tabloids and weeklies guard their contents even more jealously. All this lends credence to the original source’s explanation for the TC’s demise. Still, it would be interesting to know just what those conditions were.