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On Friday, the Japanese parliament passed an amendment that will make it illegal to knowingly download copyrighted material without authorization for the first time. Under the country's current Copyright Law, Japan allows prosecution against people who upload copyrighted material without authorization, but it is legal to download the exact same material for private use. People who use most file-sharing services are simultaneously downloading and uploading files. File-sharers who were not the original uploaders of the copyrighted material have not been targeted in the past, but the proposed changes will make the distinction a moot point. On the other hand, the amendment does not set any punishment for illegal downloading. In addition, streaming is not covered.
With the backing of the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC), the Japanese government's Agency for Cultural Affairs has been pushing for such an amendment for at least two years. JASRAC is an umbrella group of 24 companies and associations such as the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan, and the Recording Industry Association of Japan. The Private Music and Video Recording Subcommittee of the Agency for Cultural Affairs received 7,500 comments — an unprecedented show of public response for a proposed law — while it ironed out the government's proposal.
Update: The new law will go into effect on January 1, 2010.
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