Japan to amend copyright law to combat piracy

Piracy is a serious problem. Piracy causes heavy damage to copyright holders and content business. The amount of damage for manga and animation in Japan is about JPY 200 billion (USD 1.8 billion), according to a government survey in 2014.

In order to solve this problem, the Japanese government tried to legislate piracy website blocking. However, the government had to give up the legislation for that (See こちらをご覧ください。 about this). Because it encountered strong opposition, considering infringement on the constitutionally guaranteed secrecy of communication.

Therefore, the government is going to implement an alternative measures to combat piracy. The 報告書 published on February 4 2019 and approved by the advisory committee on February 13 describes the planned amendment of the copyright law as follows:

  • The opening and operating “leech” websites and applications and the posting of URL to lead to piracy websites will be made illegal

As an alternate measures of blocking of piracy websites, this aims to prevent the diffusion of pirated copies, by eradicating the websites which guide users to piracy websites. Copyright holders can ask for an injunction to foment the diffusion of pirated copies. Also, violators of the rule will face criminal charge.

By the way, Osaka district court gave the first decision on January 17 2019 that a leech site infringes copyright. In fact, there have been an issue whether or not leech sites infringe copyright. So, this decision anticipated the amendment of copyright law. In this case, the leech site guided users to a piracy website which places manga such as Naruto. Then, the leech site operators got an prison sentence.

Also, the report mentions that Google has been helping to remove the top page of piracy websites from its search results.

The downloading of pirated copies of still images (e.g. manga and magazines) and game software, in addition to music and video, will be made illegal

As for music and video, the downloading of pirated copies of them has been already illegal. So, the amendment this time aims to expand the scope of copyright work for that. It means that the downloading of any type of copyright work will be illegal. The term “downloading” includes taking a screenshot on a smartphone.

There have been many concerned voices about this amendment, considering its significant public impact.

Therefore, the government will limit the behaviors for criminal punishment to malicious ones; such as downloading from a piracy website, copying of a whole copyright work, and repeating such activities many times. Also, it will be an offense subject to prosecution only upon complaint.

I hope that the government will provide clear criteria for such malicious behaviors, so that arbitrary judgment will not be made.

I believe that everyone understands that piracy is not good and they should not download them. The problem is that sometimes it is not easy to figure out whether it is a pirated copy or not, especially in case of that shared on social media.

Reportedly, it is considered to display a warning screen when a user tries to access to a piracy website. This will be a good option to rein such a behavior. Also, it can be a good evidence to judge if the user is aware of accessing such a website.

Anyway, this regulates ordinary users. So, it should be easy to understand. Also, the regulation and its operation should be consistent with the common sense of good citizens.


Note: In fact, the government gave up submitting this bill to the Diet, after all. Please read “Japan fails to amend copyright law against piracy yet again”.