Japanese Lawyer Sues NTT For Voluntarily Blocking 'Pirate Sites'

from the censoring-is-censoring dept

Well, that didn't take long. Over the past few weeks, we have been discussing yet another attempt to introduce a censorious site-blocking program to combat copyright infringement, this time in Japan. While site-blocking is unfortunately now popular in several countries, Japan's attempt at it is interesting in that the Japanese constitution specifically forbids censorship of this kind save for the need to combat very serious, typically deadly instances. What's not arguable is that Japan's constitution intended to allow for a sweeping site-blocking program to combat general copyright infringement. Despite this, and despite the fact that the Japanese government hasn't bothered to actually put any law in place that would institute site-blocking, at least one ISP decided to get a head start and began blocking access to several websites it determined to be "pirate sites." The Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., or NTT, did this while saying the government should still get on crafting an actual law for its actions, despite the obvious unconstitutional nature of the whole enterprise.

Because of its actions, it will be NTT that will face the first legal challenge to site-blocking rather than the government, with a private citizen, who happens to be a lawyer, suing the ISP for invading his privacy in order to censor his access to the internet.

Lawyer Yuichi Nakazawa has now launched legal action against NTT, demanding that the corporation immediately ends its site-blocking operations. The complaint, filed at the Tokyo District Court, notes that the lawyer uses an Internet connection provided by NTT. Crucially, it also states that in order to block access to the sites in question, NTT would need to spy on customers’ Internet connections to find out if they’re trying to access the banned sites.

The lawyer informs TorrentFreak that the ISP’s decision prompted him into action.

“NTT’s decision was made arbitrarily on the site without any legal basis. No matter how legitimate the objective of copyright infringement is, it is very dangerous,” Nakazawa explains.

Regardless of the specific legal arguments in this suit, it's hard to imagine that NTT wouldn't have seen this coming. Operating without a legal framework to unilaterally censor parts of the internet in a country with a commanding federal legal framework hardened against this very thing was putting the ISPs neck out there, to put it mildly. Why NTT wanted to paint a legal target on its own back rather than waiting for the government and courts to sort this out at the federal level is beyond me. One has to imagine that this lawsuit will be the first of many, if NTT decides to carry on blocking websites. Japanese law is quite clear on the matter, after all.

Breaches of privacy could present a significant problem under Japanese law. The Telecommunications Business Act guarantees privacy of communications and prevents censorship, as does Article 21 of the Constitution.

“The secrecy of communications being handled by a telecommunications carrier shall not be violated,” the Telecommunications Business Act states, adding that “no communications being handled by a telecommunications carrier shall be censored.”

The Constitution is also clear, stating that “no censorship shall be maintained, nor shall the secrecy of any means of communication be violated.”

Now, as TorrentFreak notes, how this specific legal action is adjudicated will likely come down to the technical specifics of how NTT is doing its site-blocking. That and, of course, how Japanese courts interpret that technical implementation.

The question of whether site-blocking does indeed represent an invasion of privacy will probably come down to how the ISP implements it and how that is interpreted by the courts.

A source familiar with the situation told TF that spying on user connections is clearly a problem but the deployment of an outer network firewall rule that simply prevents traffic passing through might be viewed differently.

But what is more clear than anything else is that this lawsuit signals that the Japanese public won't simply allow ISPs to unilaterally censoring their internet access. Whatever the technical details, Japanese law would make any introduction of site-blocking a matter of deft attempts at skirting the purpose of the anti-censorship laws on the books rather than fully complying with them.

And if we've already reached the point that it's clear the government and NTT are trying to game the system rather than following the law, the public backlash is likely to be heavy.

Filed Under: censorship, copyright, free speech, japan, site blocking
Companies: ntt


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 May 2018 @ 9:53am

    Wait…OOTB is Japanese?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 May 2018 @ 2:28pm

      Re: what means this: "Wait…OOTB is Japanese?"

      if you use abbrs on a site, its polite to explain for noobs thx

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        ryuugami, 2 May 2018 @ 3:26pm

        Re: Re: what means this: "Wait…OOTB is Japanese?"

        If an abbreviation appears in the blog post/article, yes, it should be explained. Comments are not blog posts nor articles. Comments are a few steps down on the formality scale, and you are asking for something ridiculously unreasonable. If you need a clarification for a comment, just ask and don't be an ass.

        Anyway, OOTB = out_of_the_blue.

        Did that help? No? You see, in some cases, explaining abbreviations is not at all helpful for "noobs".

        Before you post another passive-aggressive inquiry: out_of_the_blue is one of the names that a certain troll that frequents this site used a long time ago.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 2 May 2018 @ 10:06am

    Privacy

    Not sure why an ISP would need to spy on what sites you're trying to access in order to block access to pirate sites.

    Just put a block on the pirate sites that causes users to run into a brick wall if they try to access them. It doesn't require looking at any specific user's attempts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 2 May 2018 @ 10:18am

      Re: Privacy

      It's still censorship which seems to be forbidden by their constitution.

      But I agree that this specific argument would fly if he was using some stuff to prevent dns or ip blocking and the content was still blocked then it could mean they are sniffing into your packets or something.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Sharur, 2 May 2018 @ 1:48pm

        Re: Re: Privacy

        Is it really sniffing one's packets (honest question)?What you are suggesting sounds like merely reading the header and comparing it to a list, which is what (I was under the impression) that every router and switch between sender and destination did; the only difference is that normally it does so to determine the next place to forward the packet, whereas here it determines whether or not to forward the packet or not.

        I agree about the censorship part though.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Rekrul, 12 May 2018 @ 4:37pm

        Re: Re: Privacy

        It's still censorship which seems to be forbidden by their constitution.

        If their constitution forbids censorship, why is all their porn pixelated?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ananymaus coward with a partial conspiracy hat, 2 May 2018 @ 11:16pm

    so 2 years down the line...

    All hypothetical here - to be clear at the outset.
    ISP starts blocking sites (unconstitutionally), lawyer sues. Legal battle continues for a while. The large legal team with an unlimited fund (possibly supported by other large players in the field or from other markets) carves out a loophole to continue the site blocking operation. It starts as a basic blocking operation, but as 'pirate sites' become reportedly craftier, subsequent addendum to the blocking operation require closer monitoring of consumer data and the spiral continues.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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