Japan offers increased penalties for piracy downloads

Japan recently introduced new penalties targeting online infringement and piracy. While criminal sanctions already existed in the country for uploaders of unauthorized content, an Internet user found downloading copyrighted content in Japan now faces a fine of up to ¥2m (around £16,000) or two years in prison in the worst cases. Like similar laws in many countries, the new punishments follow significant pressure from content owners in Japan concerned about falling revenues in the digital age.

At present, it’s unclear what evidence will be required to show downloading - a far more difficult act for content owners to prove than uploading. Will the police be responsible for monitoring and prosecuting or will private prosecutions be allowed? Will ISPs be called upon to track the movements and downloads of subscribers? Will video streaming sites such as YouTube be asked to hand over the IP addresses of those watching infringing videos? The lack of detail available is fuelling rumors on popular message boards in Japan such as 2ch.net:

“So far it is scary. Effectively it could cover almost everything on the Internet!”

“Certainly, this is a really dangerous Bill. It is vague. What reasons will be needed to arrest someone? If something is found, the power is there to intimidate.”

“It's moronic. It's typical that the legal system has not caught up with reality.”

The new penalties follow actions in a number of countries aimed at reducing the scale of piracy: France's anti piracy agency HADOPI recently fined its first ISP subscriber after nearly two years in operation while a similar effort in New Zealand has been in effect for just over a year. In the US, a graduated response program should be introduced before the end of 2012 and while the planned implementation of a stricter system in the UK has been hampered by arguments between interested parties, content owners have managed to use the courts to force major ISPs to block access to the most popular bittorrent site, The Pirate Bay.

Written by David Price, Head of Piracy Intelligence, NetNames

2 October 2012

Read an industry guide on protecting your online assets