Japan's Law Penalizing Downloaders, Criminalizing Ripping Goes Into Effect

posted on by Egan Loo

The new law that penalizes people who illegally download copyrighted material went into effect in Japan on Monday. The Japanese parliament passed the law in June.

The law includes a section that imposes penalties to the already illegal act of knowingly downloading copyrighted material without permission. Those charged with illegal downloading will now face up to two years of prison or fines of up to 2 million yen (about US$25,000). The law also obligates national and local governments to educate minors on illegal download prevention.

The new law also includes sections outlawing the "ripping" of content if it bypasses digital copy protection such as the CSS system on DVDs — even for personal use.

The Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs posted a "Q&A" document regarding the law shortly after its passage. One question in the document addresses the concern that the law would criminalize video streaming websites such as YouTube and niconico (formerly Nico Nico Douga), as they require caching, or the temporary downloading of data, as a part of the streaming playback process.

The document states that while caching involves the downloading of data to a user's playback device, this act in itself does not constitute an illegal reproduction of copyrighted materials. Specifically, section 47-8 of Japan's Copyright Act allows for the copyrighted materials to be reproduced if such an act is necessary for the smooth and efficient processing of such data.

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