Jail time, fines for illegal downloads debated in Japan

Japan's recording industry strongly backs criminal treatment of downloaders, while lawyers and media say it may be too harsh

A revision to Japan's copyright law to impose criminal penalties on those who illegally download music and movies has sparked debate in the country.

On Wednesday, Japan's parliament passed a measure to revise the law so that downloading is a criminal activity, punishable by up to two years in jail or a fine of up to ¥2 million (US$25,000). The revisions will go into effect from October. Currently violations are considered a civil matter.

The drastic increase in punishment for what could be as little as a single download was highlighted in the Japanese media. The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper, ran an article about the law Thursday with a headline that read "Even one click is now a crime?"

While online streaming and download services like Hulu and iTunes are popular in Japan, sales and rentals of physical CDs and DVDs are still common. Years after U.S. video rental firms like Blockbuster went bankrupt, Japanese equivalents like Tsutaya are still widely used.

The Recording Industry of Japan, a powerful music trade group, immediately applauded the new measure, and said it would work to inform people of the new penalties.

"This revision will reduce the spread of copyright infringement activities on the Internet," said Chairman Naoki Kitagawa, who is also the CEO of Sony Music Entertainment Japan.

But the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, a widely respected legal group, said that the law treating downloads as a civil matter, which was adopted in 2009, should have been given more time for its effectiveness to be judged.

"Treating personal activities with criminal punishments must be done very cautiously, and the property damage caused by individual illegal downloads by private individuals is highly insignificant," the group said in a statement.

A study published by the Recording Industry of Japan found that in 2010 about 4.36 billion such files were downloaded illegally, about ten times the 440 million files that were paid for. The study found that in Japan, dedicated video download sites are far more popular than peer-to-peer software, which can be harder to trace.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jay Alabaster

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?