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Japan’s New Anti-Download Law Starts Today

The RIAJ supports this new law

The RIAJ supports this new law

As many of you know, Japan’s revised copyright law, which was approved back on June 15 by House of Representatives (without much discussion), goes into effect today [1].

As we noted back in June, the new law brings with it criminal punishment which could be a prison sentence of two years or less, or a fine of up to 2 million yen (almost $25,000) for anyone who knowingly downloads copyrighted material.

And while there have already been laws in place to dissuade uploaders of copyrighted content (maximum of 10 years in prison, up to 10 million yen), piracy is still common. It will be interesting to see how aggressively this new law is enforced. After all, the damage caused by an individual download (as opposed to an upload or share) is pretty minimal. But given that anti-file sharing laws haven’t been working as well as Japan’s entertainment industry had hoped, criminalizing downloads is their new plan.

Are we about to see a wave of individual citizens going to jail or fined in Japan for copyright infringement? Will they serve as an example to persuade Japanese citizens that downloading will be seriously punished? If the law hinges on the offender being ‘aware’ that their download is illegal, it will be interesting to see the first cases that emerge, and exactly how this awareness is proven.

If the goal is indeed to dissuade people from downloading, Japan’s entertainment industry might also consider improving and innovating its methods of digital distribution. I suspect that we’ll see less action on that front though, and far more in the courtrooms.


  1. This Mainichi report is no longer online, but here is a cached version. It discusses some details about how the bill was approved.  ↩

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