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