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Japanese Government Aims to Ban 'Leech Sites' That Link to Pirated Works

posted on by Karen Ressler
Site operators may be subject to 3- to 5-year prison terms

The Mainichi Shimbun reported on Friday that Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs intends to ban "leech sites" that aggregate and provide hyperlinks to pirated media. The agency intends to submit revisions to the Copyright Act in the next ordinary session of the Diet in 2019.

As part of the ban, copyright holders would be able to ban hyperlinks to bootleg works, not just the bootleg works themselves. Site operators who neglect to remove such links would also be subject to legal action if they are aware that the links lead to pirated material. Operators of leech sites would be subject to prison terms of up to three to five years.

Last October, police in Japan arrested nine suspects for violating the Copyright Act with the website "Haruka Yume no Ato" (pictured above), one of the largest leech sites in Japan. While the site itself was not illegal under the current law, the operators were arrested for distributing the pirated media for which the site provided links.

The Association of Copyright for Computer Software estimated that the "Haruka Yume no Ato" website has caused 73.1 billion yen (about US$640 million) in damage through lost sales.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported in April that the Japanese government was planning to submit a bill to the Diet to restrict leech sites. The same month, the government asked internet service providers to voluntarily block websites that hosted pirated content. The government reportedly plans to create new legislation to expand the scope of site-blocking in 2019.

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) complied by blocking three websites with pirated content. However, a Saitama prefecture lawyer filed a case against the company for doing so, claiming the move was a violation of the Telecommunications Business Act, which states, "No communications being handled by a telecommunications carrier shall be censored."

The government plans to use the argument that pirated content harms publishers and content creators, and that the site-blocking would be allowed under the "averting present danger" article of Japan's Penal Code.

Japan's Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA) asserted to the government that between September 2017 and February, piracy has inflicted an estimated amount of more than 400 billion yen (about US$3.72 billion) worth of damage to copyright holders in Japan.

Source: The Mainichi (Takuya Izawa)


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