Japan Criminalizes Unauthorized Downloads, Making DVD Backups — And Maybe Watching YouTube

from the hang-'em-high dept

There’s a fairly constant pattern in the world of copyright enforcement. The media companies claim that piracy is “destroying” their industries, although they never offer any independent evidence to back this up. They “demand” that governments “do something” — by which they mean introduce harsher penalties for unauthorized downloads. Because of the hypnotic effect that musicians and artists seem to have on politicians, governments happily oblige, even though there is no evidence that such laws will help artists. After the laws come in to force, online sharing may dip for a while, but soon returns to previous levels, so the media companies start whining again, and demand yet tougher penalties.

Of course, if any of those participants in this never-ending cycle stood back and looked at what was happening, they would see that the very fact the copyright companies keep coming back for more and harsher copyright laws offers clear proof the current approach just isn’t working. Instead, they seem to believe that even though it has failed to work every time in the past, if the penalties could just be made sufficiently cruel and painful, suddenly everything would be OK.

Unfortunately, it looks like it’s Japan’s turn to undertake this exercise in futility:

Japan’s legislature has approved a bill revising the nation’s Copyright Law to add criminal penalties for downloading copyrighted material or backing up content from a DVD. The penalties will come into effect in October.

The Upper House of the Japanese Diet approved the bill by a vote of 221-12, less than a week after the measure cleared the lower house with almost no opposition. Violators risk up to two years in prison or fines up to two million yen (about $25,000).

An earlier article by the same author, Daniel Feit, on Wired, spelt out some of the insanely restrictive rules that will soon apply:

it would be illegal in Japan to make any copies of any movies or games, illegal to upload the data, illegal to download the data, illegal to sell copies of the data and well as illegal to sell a device that enables playback of the copied data. All of these actions would carry stiff penalties.

The new law’s effects might be even more ridiculous:

Japanese attorney Toshimitsu Dan told IT Media that even watching a YouTube video could be grounds for arrest “if the viewer is aware that downloading [such material] is illegal.”

Since people will inevitably carry on doing all these things, Japan’s legislation will simply crimininalize an entire generation. That means that some of them will probably end up in prison for completely trivial infractions; it will also lead millions more people to question their respect for laws that are so at odds with what they regard as normal and fair.

Perhaps dimly aware that tough sanctions won’t work – or maybe just greedy – some music groups want Japanese ISPs to install a system that they claim can spot unauthorized uploads even before they reach the Internet. As TorrentFreak explains:

Once a match is found, rightholders want ISPs to automatically block the allegedly infringing content. But according to one report, there may even be requests to send out warning letters to uploaders. If implemented this would amount to the most invasive “3 strikes” style regime anywhere in the world.

To add insult to injury, ISPs are expected to pay for allowing the music industry to spy on their users 24 hours a day. Since that cost will inevitably be passed on, that means that customers will be forced to pay for the pleasure of undermining their own privacy, having their ability to upload legitimate material curtailed, and receiving unwarranted threatening letters. Sounds like the Japanese recording industry has been watching Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” too much.

This latest call for total surveillance on top of probably the harshest laws passed yet against unauthorized downloads raises an important question: when the current measures fail — as they surely will — what will the copyright industries demand next in a further forlorn attempt to deter file sharing? Life imprisonment? Amputation of the mousing fingers?

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Comments on “Japan Criminalizes Unauthorized Downloads, Making DVD Backups — And Maybe Watching YouTube”

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Plasmaborne4rel (user link) says:

Re: anything but the real solution

Consumers should stop buying DVDs or whatever medium Entertainment media is selling. Stop downloading their shit. Stop watching and consuming from these assholes but no we’ll keep consuming their stuff and they’ll keep finding ways to put us in prison. If you’re gonna be a rube, it sounds fair. It must be, otherwise why would we consume their swill

DogBreath says:

Re: Re:

This is just making sure there are only two types of people in Japan. Those that are in prison, and those that will soon be on their way to prison.

(Japanese anti-piracy vid)
Download…No More!(Japanese anti-piracy vid)

From now on in Japan, it would seem the only winning move is not to download anything, ever. Even from alleged “official authorized sources”, lest ye be accused of knowingly committing copyright infringement and spend the next two years eating only fish heads and rice (if you’re lucky enough to even get that much).

Michael Becker (profile) says:

“illegal to sell a device that enables playback of the copied data”

Wouldn’t that make nearly every major device manufactured by tech companies illegal in Japan, as most have mp3 playback capability? Also, how are they going to determine on the device between purchased DRM free mp3’s, and illegal mp3’s?

This would make most every phone illegal, the DSi and 3DS illegal, PS3’s, Xbox’s, Wii’s…all of it.
That’s insane.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Copied data is more than just mp3’s. To make it illegal to sell a device that enables playback of copied data would mean making illegal computers in general, since that’s what a computer at the most basic level is – a copy machine.

This is why I am against copyright law. The only way to make an effective copyright law would be to severely enforce a law that says computers and all other tools that can be used to copy are illegal, which is too high a price to pay.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“illegal to sell a device that enables playback of the copied data”

Wouldn’t that make nearly every major device manufactured by tech companies illegal in Japan, as most have mp3 playback capability? Also, how are they going to determine on the device between purchased DRM free mp3’s, and illegal mp3’s?

This would make most every phone illegal, the DSi and 3DS illegal, PS3’s, Xbox’s, Wii’s…all of it.
That’s insane.

And video cameras, and flipbooks, and xerox machines, and the human brain….

Anonymous Coward says:

“Japan Criminalizes Unauthorized Downloads, Making DVD Backups — And Maybe Watching YouTube”

I’m confused by your headline. Are you saying that the act of watching YouTube is illegal under this law or that downloading infringing material from YouTube is unlawful as the statement below suggests:

Japanese attorney Toshimitsu Dan told IT Media that even watching a YouTube video could be grounds for arrest “if the viewer is aware that downloading [such material] is illegal.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That is exactly how the Japanese legal system works, it has absurd laws with absurd rules that can never be enforced onto everyone, but it is enforced selectively against people who are a “threat” to the “society”.

The police only start looking at you when there are complaints and they find a way to make you comply with whatever they want you to comply to.

A marvelous thing for an undemocratic system based on what they were forced to accept after the war.

The funny part about getting imprisoned in Japan is the various stories about people who did go through it, they all relay the same stories, of how law enforcement abuse, lie and do horrible things to you while you are in holding, it must be some kind of protocol they have there, and I suspect that inflicting those procedures in a large part of the population won’t be well received ever.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Just a short while ago, I watched a few Machinama videos of Mass Effect 3 and Skyrim on Youtube. They were hilarious. Got a good laugh out of them.
Next thing I knew, Japanese police bust down my door, hauled me in front of a court. (Before I forget, let me mention that Japan has one of the most ruthless court systems in the world, with very few acquittals. If you go to court, you’re practically guaranteed to lose). I was sentenced to two years in prison and an amount equal to about a year’s pay for me.
I lost my home, my job, what few possessions I was proud to own (had to flog them to pay the fine). I lost my girlfriend as no-one in their right mind wants to date a convict, or wait for two years. I got a black mark on my file, such that I’m guaranteed to rarely, more than likely never, get a job again.

And all for what? What was the benefit for all this? Did I say I’ll buy Skyrim and Mass Effect 3? No, I decided not to…which was an easy choice to make, considering I already had. They were right there on my hard drive. But, thanks to copyright, I had the right to only play the game as the developers saw fit. Once I watched a machinama, that was when I became public enemy number one.

Japan…what are you so afraid of? Of foreigners watching anime for free? You do realize that the foreign anime market exists SOLELY BECAUSE OF INFRINGEMENT in the first place! Now, you’re turning around and kicking your customers in the teeth. There are other ways of monetizing anime other than by charging for the episodes. Ways that won’t make your customers want to declare World War 3, 4, 5, and 6 on you.

Weissold Owelle says:

Spare Me the Hyperbole

what will the copyright industries demand next in a further forlorn attempt to deter file sharing? Life imprisonment? Amputation of the mousing fingers?

Obviously, death will be the ultimate punishment for such abhorrent behaviour.

That’s death of the “copyright industry” members and their shills, of course.

It’s just a matter of time.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘what will the copyright industries demand next in a further forlorn attempt to deter file sharing? Life imprisonment? Amputation of the mousing fingers?’

truer words are spoken in jest! i wouldn’t be surprised to see ‘the chair or the needle’ added to the list and the fucking idiots we have in charge of governments will more than likely give them those options as well!

what should happen is the entertainment industries en bloc should be totally banned from the internet, from owning or operating any web site and from having any of their material available for download from anywhere. to me though, the first and most important step is for ISPs to grow some, band together worldwide and tell these industries where the hell to go. they seem to be ignorant of the fact that the more these industries demand, the more they get but it is never enough and will never be enough.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

that the more these industries demand, the more they get but it is never enough and will never be enough.
Amen, brother.

Case in point: Youtube. Their ContentID goes WAY WAY WAY beyond what US law says Youtube has to do, and what did Youtube get for developing and using this system at their own expense? They got Viacom dragging them into a court-room, saying it wasn’t enough.

Overcast (profile) says:

This is actually good for the world.

Reason is – the other ‘chatter’ you hear about a lot is how fat everyone is. So…

Get off of YouTube, quit watching movies, and get out and do something. No licensing or use issues – if you aren’t using it!

I barely have time to sit and watch a half hour of news, much less a movie. Why would I bother at this point paying for ANYTHING past regular old cable? I can’t backup DVD’s – so that tosses half their value out the window for me anyway.

So I’ll just DVR little things of moderate interest and keep busy – AWAY from media. Works for me, and saves me money.

So ban whatever media you want, we will (your customers) find something else to do – keep your media, lol.

Oh and sorry – I spent too much money on paint and other things to put more repairs on my house – I might drop a movie channel or two – just because of this – another victory for the content industry.

You’re too busy pissing off your paying customers to notice they are walking right out the door…

Anonymous Coward says:

Okay, seriously now. There are people who can’t handle DVDs without damaging them, for various health reasons. I personally destroyed a couple of them in the past because of this. And legal downloadable content is still very rare in my country. If the local government ever decides to pass such a law – which I admit is very unlikely, but who knows? – I’m probably just going to die of boredom. I do pay for the content, I don’t give away the copies – would they want me to buy SEVERAL identical discs just because I can’t keep them in working condition?

…Although Japan in particular already doesn’t want my money, because my illegal anime downloads led me to importing whole bunches of (legal) DVDs with the series I like, many of which have no chances to get a local licensed release. They started fighting uploaders long ago. Now they’re enhancing their laws again. (And I thought seppuku takes much less time…)

streetlight (profile) says:

Just about any device that allows viewing...

This means that ust about any device that allows viewing copyrighted audio or audio video – particularly devices that buffer content – would be illegal in Japan and so also those who send it out:

– Over the air radio or TV stations
– Television sets and audio radios
– Cable/satellite boxes, particularly DVRs
– DVD players/recorders
– Any personal computer from laptops to desktop machines
– Medical diagnostic equipment
– ISPs and online data retention devices. Generally, personally created information is copyrighted, so saving one’s own created digital data to the cloud would be illegal
– and on and on and on and on…

The stupidity of the ignorant is beyond belief.

jezsik (profile) says:

Can we turn the tables?

Given that media industries are able to make exagerated claims without proof, can we not turn the tables on them? Why not come up with real (or even bogus) stats showing that piracy has lead to more profits for media producers and demand that copyright be reduced or eliminated. Get a grass roots movement going, get some momentum and take it to congress. Demand more piracy to encourage creativity and increase sales and profits. “What do we need? Piracy! When do we need it? Real soon!”

Chilly8 says:

As far as the extraterritorial provisions go, those making it apply to Japanese citizens living abroad, I say good luck with that. Japan has no jurisdiction over an ISP in either Brazil or the USA, the countries with the biggest Japanese disapora in the world. So there is no way the Japanese government is going to find out about you watching a youtube video sitting in your home in either Japan or Brazil

Jay (profile) says:

Japanese market

So I don’t think people know enough about Japan to understand how dire this is. Let’s put this into perspective…

Japan has had a recession for decades. They didn’t have any kind of protections for their middle class and most of the salarymen that made up the middle class have not looked for work in quite some time. People don’t buy music, movies, games, books or any form of entertainment like they once did. They live by the cellphone since their networks are far more advanced than what’s here in the US.

So when you look at how South Korea is becoming a much more vibrant nation you see the disparity here. Japan is getting their laws that protect the music/movie industry. But it’s coming at a dire cost.

Young workers in particular are having trouble finding work, and when they do, have very low salaries and no clear track for salary increases. Uncertainty about future earnings also means a higher saving rate, which further decreases discretionary spending in the present. Among the marketing community, Japanese millennials are known as the ?generation who doesn?t consume.?

So essentially, Japan is locking up these people, that have no money to spend in the economy expecting them to just follow the rules and stop pirating or stop finding alternative means of music.

But here’s the facts… The self publishing industry is doing fine. What we’re seeing is the death of the old way of doing business. I don’t doubt that this criminalization will pick up some innocents who can’t do much to prove their innocence. (pdf) This is truly mercantilist protectionism from an industry trying to make more money that people just don’t have. How sickening.

Anonymous Coward says:

Never mind my arguments above concerning DVD backup being a neccessity to some people – how are they even going to enforce it? The only way of doing that is to stop releasing DVDs altogether. Which I think they’ll do one day in favour of Blu-rays, but still – how exactly are they going to track down somebody who made a personal copy of a disc and never gave it away or distributed online? (Will the Big Brother watch them, or something?..)

And the whole situation with the media companies starts to remind me of how some online shops treat their customers. They shower you with promises and attractive ads, you fall for them, buy a huge amount of stuff… and as soon as you pay, they lose interest in you completely. Instead of, you know, trying to impress you enough for you to stay their regular customer and buy more. One day such shops will inevitably run out of people who still want to buy from them.

Preemie Maboroshi (user link) says:

uploading to youtube

I’m not educated at all in this kind of stuff. And I don’t know about convicting people. But I think Japan is right in essence on this.

I think what YouTube should do, if someone uploads a video to their site without owning the copyright is:

1) Have a “piggyback” algorithm that contacts the owner of the copyright and gives the owner the ability to monetize the upload. This would be a nearly hands-free method of making money for the owner.

2) Have an “eraser” algorithm that keeps the uploaded video on the site, but erases the name of the uploader from the site, so that if an upload is made without the copyright being owned by the uploader, the uploader is given no credit for the upload. Channel views would also not be counted.

3) Have a “demand” algorithm that tracks in-demand videos that have not been uploaded by copyright owners and enables the copyright owners to have the in-demand video uploaded to a VEVO-like site, where the copyright owner alone can monetize the video.

This would streamline copyright issues, while still allowing individuals to find their own ways of creating new and innovative content for uploads to YouTube. And if people still wanted to download non-original material for the altruistic education of others, they still could.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: uploading to youtube

Have a “piggyback” algorithm that contacts the owner of the copyright and gives the owner the ability to monetize the upload. This would be a nearly hands-free method of making money for the owner.

I uploaded a small snippet from the British TV show “The IT Crowd”, and a short while later I got a notice that it was copyrighted material… but it *wasn’t* removed. It got an ad inserted into it, and the page it was on suddenly contained links to other IT Crowd snippets as well as links to places where IT Crowd DVDs could be purchased.

Worked out well for all concerned: I got to have an embedded video on my Intranet, and the folks selling DVDs got some extra traffic.

Bill Bunyip says:

2 years is a very interesting figure, because it makes this crime grounds for extradition (which in generally doesn’t apply to crimes with less than 2 years jail penalty).

I suspect this is more about making it easy for US to extradite offenders (like Kim Dotcom) for copyright offences than prosecute their own citizens.

It will be interesting to see if other countries introduce similar penalties in the near future, especially those involved in the current trade pact negotiations.

Centipede (profile) says:

Not as bad as it seems...

As much as the western and parts of the Japanese media have been having a virtual frenzy about this law, there’s one area that may not be as bad as it seems. If you read the contents of the law (in Japanese) on the Ministry of Cultural Affairs’ webpage it specifically states that the law is not intended to cover streaming video. The site adds that even if you know the video you are streaming is an illegal copy you are OK, but if you use a program (or presumably a chrome extension) to save it then you become in violation of the law.

Of course, the police could still try to use the law to overreach and get at YouTube viewers, which could easily happen, and as Anonymous Coward stated above Japan has a lot of bizarre hidden laws that are only whipped out when they need to go after one specific person.

That said, I don’t think this means the death of the internet in Japan, and also not the death of YouTube and Nico Nico Douga.

Funny… I also tried to post this same comment in response to Kotaku’s freakout article about the new law but my comment was modded out instantly. Methinks they wanted to stir up bunch of frenzied commentors (and get ad hits in the process), so they didn’t want anyone peeing on the fire too soon.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think I’m turning Japanese I really think so

No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women
No fun, no sin, no you, no wonder it’s dark
Everyone around me is a total stranger
Everyone avoids me like a cyclone ranger

I think I’m turning Japanese I really think so

Maybe when this law kicks in, Japanese geeks ( otaku ) will have to go out and meet others face to face…

Stanislaw Giers says:

Guys don't freak out

1) The law targets downloading not streaming and it probably reffers to the so called PREMIUM CONTENT not just any CONTENT
2) Streaming live or not isn’t downloading you don’t posses a physical copy and the computer removes it after were done watching the Japanese law states that you cannot SAVE ILLEGAL CONTENT !! watching it dosen’t necessary make it illegal
3) there some things as ABANDONED WORKS which are considered copy right free ( especially when we talk about older movies and tv series Cartoons tend to be deactualized and abandoned faster some animes might however have new releases)
4) You cannot copy anything from Cd’s that have DMR protection althought one might thing these things are everywhere there are works that don’t use such protections in the first place
5) basically works released in Public DOMAIN ANYWHERE have the same issue even if a given movie werent’ in public domain in Japan or part of it is in public domain all the movie must be treated as public domain cause other wise using the right would be impossible IN THIS CASE ONLY SAVING A COPY WOULD BE ILLEGAL however having a COPY OF A MOVIE from PUBLIC DOMAIN completelly is legal

ALSO THE LAW reffers to the PREMIUM CULTURE like US SHOWS HBO or things made by SONY or movie releases , TV drama’s or TV series or HOLLYWOOD releases this dosen’t cover all the ANIME SHOWS which some might be considered abandoned works

Stanslaw Giers says:

The definition of STREAMING IS NOT DOWNLOADING as DOWNLOADING IS UNDERSTOOD by most users (in this case it means DOWNLOAD and SAVING)

Someone said that all they need to do is to convince someone that Streaming is downloading and I think that someone should go back to theire IT

ultimedia (audio and video) files that start to play in a steady and continuous flow, almost immediately upon their download. IN contrast, an ordinary audio/video file must be DOWNLOADED, and decompressed and SAVED, in its entirety before it can be played. Streaming occurs at the client (user) end where a program (usually a plug in) such as ‘RealAudio’ or ‘CU See Me’ decompresses the incoming compressed file while it is being downloaded, and sends it to the application (usually a browser) for conversion into sound and/or video.

And here’s an answer of the policy makers “As for streaming or progressive download , such as YouTube , will be described in ” the same as the revised law at the time two years ago , it does not hit the illegal if you are just viewing ” he said. However, that will be illegal when you want to watch in the software to another temporary file , and you can also store the recording medium to another .”

NOTE THE TERM that will be illegal when you watch in the software saving it to ANOTHER TEMPORARY FILE ( sorry for the google translator) but read the next sentence if you SAVE and THAN COPY it TO ANOTHER RECORDING MEDIUM ? (possibly CD or DVD) meaning one cannot make copies into recording mediums watching the movie on You Tube which althought downloads the file into a TEMPORARY file but dosen’t STORE IT !!! is LEGAL in JAPAN …. the only time a STREAMING a video in JAPAN would be illegal is if SOMEONE WOULD hack or make a copy of a movie from a premium site and watched using a different software than the one intented and also WITHOUT PAYING the FEE

SO ITS STILL LEGAL TO WATCH EVEN ILLEGALLY UPLOADED ANIME VIA YOU TUBE AS LONG AS WE USE THE PROVIDED PLUGGIN an MEDIA PLAYER and don’t USE A THIRD PARTY SOFTWARE TO DOWNLOAD THE FILE TO PLAY IN A DIFFERENT FILE and AS LONG AS WE DON’T USE ANY MEANS TO GO AROUND and watch an OTHERWISE BLOCKED VIDEO IN JAPAN on YOU TUBE , if the movie or tv show , anime series dosen’t come from a PREMIUM SERVICE ! , isn’t taken down or blocked and can be easilly acessed using you’re country’s Isp adress on YOU TUBE watching the VIDEO is considered LEGAL because the author or the copyright owner can force the video down, you weren’t aware of the fact the video was provided illegally ( as you made an LEGAL ATTEMPT TO WATCH it ON YOU TUBE not seeking it out on TORRENTS) XD
WHERE USING BITTORENTS prove that you had the INTENT of obtaining the file illegally while browsing on YOU TUBE only suggests that you might have been mislead by the UPLOADER into thinking that the content was provided legally oror the author is aware of the file beeing there but chooses to not exercise his rights, the work might be considered abandoned and its legal status is questionable)

( studied law)

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