Japan Aims for Copyright-Relaxed 'Special Cyber Zones' (Updated)
posted on by Egan Loo
Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is aiming to establish "special cyber zones" (cyber tokku), in which users can use and experiment with copyrighted materials on the Internet without legal worries, in 2009. Such materials will include net-distributed video and music that have been authorized by the copyright holders. However, "only specific participants will be allowed to enter" the zones. Similar to the existing special economic zones (keizai tokku) with relaxed business regulations, the cyber equivalents are intended to promote the global competitiveness of the telecommunications industry and support the creation of new business opportunities. The ministry is requesting a budget of 2 billion yen (US$18 million) for this initiative in 2009.
Like other countries, Japan has grappled with the balance of copyright enforcement versus individual rights and business opportunities on the Internet. Japan currently allows unauthorized downloads of copyrighted material for private use, but the Agency for Cultural Affairs is pushing for an amendment to allow prosecution of these downloaders. At the same time, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters proposed a fair-use clause, similar to the American one, that will consider non-commericial use and the lack of harm on market value as mitigating factors in any prosecution. Niwango's Nico Nico Douga video-sharing website was forced last month to remove videos that reportedly infringed on the copyrights of three Japanese associations of video content companies.
Update: Over a month after Nico Nico Douga's announcement that it is deleting copyrighted content, there are still videos that contain the association members' copyrighted material on the service. Thanks, samuelp.
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history