Towards a Competitive Strategy for Data Distribution

 Tokyo University Professor Hiroshi Ōhashi published an article called "Competition Policy in the New Age" in the Nikkei. I'll be referencing the important points, so I'll comment along with quotes from the article.

"When there's synergy between data gathering and usage, we say that the relationship has a network effect. When a network effect is in play, we can clearly see the contrast between the victor who gathered data successfully and the loser who failed to do so, and the way this causes the market to trend towards oligopoly."

 In truth the network effect points out how physical networks like traffic and communication networks become more valuable the more their number of users increases, but in IT upper level platforms and applications become the subject, and one level up from that the very data that flows through them has become the main subject. This is an important point.

"In recent years Western competition authorities have warned of both data accumulation and oligopoly. Last year, both the German Federal Cartel Office and French competition authorities signed onto and sent out a report, and the United States' Federal Trade Commission also released documents focusing on Big Data." 

 The promotion of data usage as an IT/intellectual property policy for Japan has been a recurring theme, but we seldom here discussion on competition policy.

"The discussion in the West, as it concerns competition policy, has pointed out that data capture by existing businesses may be taking away opportunities for new services offered by new entrants to the market.  Such data capture plucks out innovation when it's only just begun to grow, and may be an obstacle to the revitalization of the industry.

 Regarding international IT megacorporations, starting with Google and Apple, the EU and various other western countries are attacking the issue through tax and competition policy, but the problem is spreading through data as well. Compared to this, the Japanese authorities' stance towards American IT companies is quite soft. There have been several scattered cases of foreign powers ignoring rules that apply to domestic companies.

"AI has also rapidly permeated business to business services, creating new concerns for competition policy as it relates to data accumulation in the manufacturing world."

 In the midst of the sudden sharp growth in the importance of AI, it is commonly understood that data will be the deciding factor in the ability to utilize it. The major factors are whether and  how one can secure and refine their own data, and whether and how they can use and share external data.

"Starting from the concern that citizens/consumers don't actually have a way to really understand how their data is being used or shared by businesses in business-to-consumer interactions,  we ought to make ownership and usage clear with respect to data, just as we have for goods and services."

 Discussion is ongoing in the government's IT headquarters regarding the provision of an infrastructure for the ownership/usage/distribution data, and at the intellectual property headquarters, an intellectual property system for promoting the use and application of data is being debated.

"One idea that developed is the usage of a personal data store or PDS that would allow individuals to manage their own data within a structure that encouraged such management, with companies returning the personal information they store to individuals."  This concept is even spreading throughout the world of B to B transactions,  and it might be best to begin talks with the government as a whole in order to establish ownership and usage rights.

 The crucial point in the concept is that the PDS would allow individuals to manage their own data. Paired with the setup of a data transaction marketplace, it would make up an infrastructure for data use and distribution. The debate on these matters centers around the IT headquarters.

"Even considering our country's growing competitive strength, setting up an environment that facilitates the safe and secure use and distribution of data is an urgent task. In the midst of certain industries wrongly capturing data and manipulating competition through unfair methods, there is a need for the competition authorities to establish a system capable of investigating unmasking such behavior and the expertise to run it."

 I have claimed in the past that we need to get the wheels turning for both infrastructure as IT policy and an IP system as intellectual property policy, and it seems now that there are circumstances that need to be managed as part of a competition policy.


Report from the Headquarters for Intellectual Property/Cinema Promotion Conference

 Headquarters for Intellectual Property/Cinema Promotion Conference The results of this conference fall under three columns.

1 Production Support/Financing
 As support for the production work of both creators and production companies, including mid to small scale businesses, it was decided to utilize the CoolJapan organization and others to supply risk money.  The CoolJapan Personnel Development Research Committee was established, and a strategy decided on. I'll be participating in this conference.

2 Overseas Development
 Centering on China, it was recommended that support be provided for advancing into Asian markets and putting greater focus on the animation sector. Other measures brought up included handling regulation in overseas markets, negotiating to encourage collaborative international production, gathering funding for overseas development of production companies, etc.

3 Location Support
 The creation of a manual that involves the relevant regulation authorities such as police or fire departments in order to streamline the process of applying for authorizations from the perspective of road use and fire services was requested. A Public-Private Liaison Committee Regarding Environmental Improvement for On-Location Shoots was established, and signed on to the decisions regarding the manual, etc.

 In my position as chair, I worried that argument would break out over specific genres of film wanting auxiliary funding. However, the discussion focused on establishing infrastructure systems and tasks which ought to be undertaken by the government such as negotiating with overseas elements.

 The committee ended up having a challenging meeting on these three points:

1) A comprehensive content policy has been debated at intellectual property headquarters for over a decade, but this is the first time a strategy has been thought of by shining a light on movies as general expression.

2) That the entire cast of the Japanese film industry was assembled.

3) This was an period of time where the environment surrounding movies underwent a lot of changes due to the industry's shift towards internet and smartphones and aggressive moves from overseas.

 In the midst of all of this, we were able to put together an important strategy. Further meetings will take place on personnel development and attracting interest in shooting on-location, sparking further discussion, but even taking those points into account, the government wants to move forward with implementation.


The Inbound Market for Anime and Manga

 The Anime Business Partners Forum's Symposium on "The Inbound Market for Anime and Manga" was recently held. I acted as the chair.

 The government's policy aims to increase the number of foreign visitors to Japan from 20 million to 40 million in 2020. Currently, consumption on travel sits at 3.5 trillion yen.  The plan is to multiply that amount to 8 trillion. But what does that have to do with anime and manga? That's the theme we're tacking.

 Currently sales of anime, manga, and character goods come to 30 billion yen, and 13% of those purchases are made by tourists. Putting it into perspective, tourists only make up 1% of total consumption, That's less than 1/10 of fashion consumption. A third of that, or 10 billion, is spent by Chinese tourists alone.

 According to Akihabara's Representative Izumi, Akihabara has changed from a place to buy home electronics to a place to shop for pop culture goods, but although the area has moved towards the pop culture goods foreign buyers are looking for,  the foreigner-oriented businesses, which is to say the those focused on inbound business, have yet to go into full swing.

 40% of plastic Gundam models sales are foreign sales, and including inbound consumption, a full 50% of all sales nationally were by foreigners. The structure is one that sees domestic sails to foreigners increase alongside outbound sales overseas. The outbound and inbound sales are unified neighbors.

 For the anime Chibi Maruko-chan, popular products overseas include things like kotatsu, lactic accid drinks, children's backpacks, and more.  Without asking overseas, we can't know what demand is like overseas.

 The popular of Japanese pop culture is entrenched overseas, and industry continues to pour their efforts into developing these outbound sales, but experts all agree that the future offers big opportunity in inbound sales. It looks like anime and manga have a lot of potential.