I watched episode 7 of Space Patrol Luluco today, and, well, that sure was a thing. Saliently, it featured

a piece from the Kill la Kill soundtrack: "Gekiban Tokka-gata Hitotsu-boshi Gokuseifuku" (OST 2 track 1), which is basically the soundtrack-ified version of "Before my body is dry", a.k.a. "DON'T LOSE YOUR WAY".

(I'm spoilering this because, frankly, this is the best anime-related surprise I've gotten in ages.)

This got me thinking - who typically owns the soundtrack of an anime? Is it the composer, or is it some other party, such as the animation studio or the production committee?

(By soundtrack, I mean the soundtrack; not OPs/EDs, which I strongly suspect tend to have different ownership schemes.)

The situation in Hollywood is interesting as a point of comparison - various ownership schemes seem to be possible (though I don't know which are more common). In some cases, the soundtrack will be treated as a work-for-hire owned by the film's producers; in other cases, the composer will own the soundtrack and will license usage rights to the producers; and surely other possibilities exist. (Keep in mind, of course, that Japan and the US have fairly divergent conventions when it comes to the handling of intellectual property, so the situation in Hollywood is probably not the same as the situation in... Akihabara?)


3 Answers 3


Here is what I found :

From what I understood, music industry in anime is not really transparent. It's difficult to find trustable sources.

Firstly I had the idea to ask to Thomas Romain and here is his answer (translation below the screen) : enter image description here

The translation : "Who usually owns the rights on anime OST in Japan ? (except OP & ED) the studio ? the composer ?" "Certainly not the studio. I couldn't say. Probably the production committee + the composer."

Thomas Romain is a French animator which works in Japan since several years. He works for the studio Satelight. So even if he's not sure about who owns the rights, I think you can trust him when he says that studios do not own the rights.

I also made some resarch on Wikipedia :

Japanese copyright laws (著作権法 Chosakukenhō?) consist of two parts: "Author's Rights" and "Neighbouring Rights." As such, "copyright" is a convenient collective term rather than a single concept in Japan. Japan was a party to the original Berne convention in 1899, so its copyright law is in sync with most international regulations.

They say the copyright law is in sync with most international regulations. There are 3 actors : the composer, the producers and the broadcasters (wire diffusers). In anime production like pointed before, producers and broadcasters seem to be the same.

About the rights of each of them :

The composer has all the moral rights on his music. He has also economic rights, that is to say : Reproduction: The author can control the reproduction of a work, including photography, recording, and downloading. Communication: The author can control how a work is to be transmitted, communicated, broadcast, performed, exhibited, etc., including how copies of the work are to be distributed. Adaptation: The author can control the adaptation of a work through translation, dramatization, cinematization, and the creation of derivative works in general.

And for the broadcasters (here the producers) :

Broadcasters and wire diffusers have the transferable economic rights of fixation, reproduction, making available, and retransmission. Television broadcasters also have a right to control photography of their broadcasts.

If you want more details, here is my source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_law_of_Japan


This is the typical situation in Japan: The composer and the lyricist transfer the copyright to the music publisher and it trusts copyright to a copyright collective, most likely JASRAC (ASCAP/BMI in the US). The performers own the performing rights, which are usually transferred to the record label by contract. Also, the record label owns the recording rights.

Thus the animation studio must have been licensed by JASRAC and the record label (Sony/Aniplex) to use the song.


Based on several stores I visited online, all the OSTs are sold/distributed by the companies that produce them. Example of Kara no Kyoukai OST, it is distributed by Sony, not ufotable. Hence it must be owned by the company that produced it.

As for OP/ED, I have seen lots of anime opening videos on YouTube whose audio track is muted by the respective song producers (not the animation company). Hence the soundtrack must be owned by the company that produces it and is used by the animation company on certain agreements.


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