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Japanese Government Aims to Impose Penalties for Downloading Illegal Books

posted on by Karen Ressler
New regulations would impose fines, prison time for paying for pirated media

Japan's Agency of Cultural Affairs revealed on Friday that it plans to instate a penalty for anyone who downloads manga, magazines, novels, essays, and photographs from the internet with the knowledge that they have been uploaded illegally. Under the proposed revisions, the penalty can be up to two years prison time or up to a 2 million yen (about US$17,740) fine. The agency intends to submit revisions to the Copyright Act in the next ordinary session of the Diet in 2019.

Current laws only punish the consumer of pirated media in cases where the media in question is music or video. The proposal will expand the law to include books.

The agency is also planning to submit a proposal to ban "leech sites" that aggregate and provide hyperlinks to pirated media. The government already asked internet service providers to voluntarily block websites that hosted pirated content, and 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 reportedly plans to create new legislation to expand the scope of site-blocking in 2019, using 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.

The pirate manga site Mangamura was shut down in April, and police began investigating the site for criminal activity after Japanese publishers filed charges last year. Since the site went down, manga artists are claiming increases in sales of their respective series, alleging that more users are turning to legal means to read manga with the piracy site's demise.

In another recent development, the Tokyo District Court ruled as a temporary measure in November that YouTube must disclose the user information for an account that posted dialogue text from the Ushijima the Loan Shark manga into a video without permission. Many users have posted scans from manga as videos and earned revenue from views. The court's ruling determined that it is illegal to share the manga's text, even if the pictures are not present.

Japan's major publishing companies — Kadokawa Shoten, Kodansha, Shogakukan, and Shueisha — have launched a "STOP! Piracy Edition" campaign, which offers a website with information about pirated manga.

Source: Kyodo Tsushin via Dan Kanemitsu

Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the proposed laws would affect "those who pay to download media that has been uploaded illegally." The statement should be, "those who download media that they would otherwise have to pay for, but has been uploaded illegally." Thanks, Dan Kanemitsu.

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