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Japan’s copyright law now carries potential 2-year sentence for illegal downloads

The amendment to the country’s copyright law, which passed in June, went into effect today. 


Curt Hopkins


As of Oct. 1, if you download a file illegally in Japan, you could wind up serving two years of jail time.

Japan’s recording industry is in trouble, and its legislature has tried to stem its losses by instituting a regime that TorrentFreak calls “draconian.”

According to the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ), the country’s music and movie fans downloaded 4.36 billion pirated files in 2010, dwarfing the 440 million files they bought legally. Last year, according to the RIAJ, the market for legal downloads shrank by 16 percent, outweighed by illegal downloads 10 to 1.

The legislation implemented today was introduced into the Kokkai (the Japanese “national assembly,” or legislature) in June as an amendment to the country’s copyright law.

Most illegal file-sharing laws target those who upload the files to the Internet. Those who knowingly download illegally are also targets but usually (not always) suffering much less intensive penalties. In Japan, the act has been illegal for several years, but penalties have been slight and unenforced. This change to the law narrows the distance between the two types of parties.

Currently, an illegal uploader can be sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined 10 million yen (about $130,000 USD). Now an illegal downloader may be sentenced to two years in prison and fined the equivalent of about $25,000.

How Japanese authorities, or businesses and groups in the recording sector, can determine that a given user has downloaded illegally shared files is uncertain. Third-parties, such as online music stores, are more frequently the sellers of legal files than the recording companies.

Unnervingly, the RIAJ is pressuring Internet service providers to install spytech that will track, and block, illegal uploads. If this is successful, then a cozy relationship between the Japanese recording industry and the country’s ISPs could result in a very high level monitoring of individual users.

Photo by Jason Wesley Upton/Flickr

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