Japan introduces tough new file-sharing penalties

By | Published on Thursday 21 June 2012


Japan’s parliament, the Diet, has passed a new law that sets tough new penalties for anyone who downloads pirated content over the net, according to The Japan Times. A previous revision of the country’s copyright laws had confirmed that the downloading of such content, as well as uploading it, was illegal, but penalties for the former had not previously been set.

Those convicted under the new law could face up to two years in prison and/or a fine of up to two million yen (about £16,000). The uploading of unlicensed content in Japan already carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and a 10 million yen fine.

The new penalties for downloading have been criticised by some in both the net community and the legal world, though the domestic music and movie industries have been lobbying hard for such changes in the copyright system.

Although the decline in CD sales has been slower in Japan than most other countries, and while file-sharing there has not been as prevalent as in much of the rest of the world (for cultural, legal and technical reasons), the Japanese music business is still facing similar challenges to the global industry as digital content becomes the norm.

Whether the new penalties will have any major effect on file-sharing in Japan remains to be seen. It’s thought rights owners will continue to primarily monitor such net usage, and it’s likely they will primarily go after prolific file-sharers, and mainly those who prolifically upload, who already faced tough sentences. There is also a little ambiguity in the new law, in that it must be proven a file-sharer knew the content they were downloading was not licensed.

Nevertheless, critics of the new rules fear they could be used to unfairly target more casual file-sharers who, they argue, are not really the problem.