Japanese Academics Issue The Tamest 'Emergency' Statement Over Proposed Copyright Amendment

from the take-a-breath dept

Recently, we discussed a proposed change to Japanese copyright law that would make literally all downloading of copyrighted material a criminal matter, rather than a civil one. This change would be fairly bonkers for an entire host of reasons. It has the potential to clog up the criminal courts with the same kind of minor copyright infringement cases that clog up America's civil courts. It would put a decisive chill on the sharing culture that brought the internet to its current state to begin with. And it would further the culture of ownership and protectionism already far too common across the globe.

And, as states an "emergency statement" issued by nearly a hundred Japanese academics, it would possibly criminalize the kind of personal copying that facilitates research, education, and personal growth.

In an ‘Emergency Statement’ signed by 87 academics, researchers, lawyers, and other experts, the government is urged to think again about the scope of the proposed legislation. Under the current proposals, the group believes that private copying could be rendered illegal, even to the extent of outlawing screenshots for private use.

“We believe that the limitation on the right of reproduction for private use purposes has the function of restricting the freedom of information gathering in the private domain. It is a legal foundation that supports the intellectual and cultural activities of individuals, and even Japanese industry,” the signatories write.

The group believes that the proposed legislation has been rushed through in a very short time (five meetings in three months), without carefully considering the consequences. They want the authorities to think again, to protect the public interest.

It's as timid a statement as could be offered. And it's one that essentially amounts to, "Whoa, guys, take a breath, because you don't know what you're about to do." Given the timeline on which this has occurred, it's a wholly reasonable request as well, given the enormous stake the public has and its nearly complete lack of a seat at the legislative table. The chill on both expression and research that this cluster-bomb law would have can't really be overstated, as the kind of personal copying that it would seek to criminalize has become essential to both.

And, to be clear, these academics aren't exactly against enforcing copyright laws generally, either.

Importantly, those calling for the proposals to be considered more closely appear to be broadly in favor of tightening up the law to protect rightsholders. However, there are serious concerns over the potential for collateral damage when even snippets of text could be criminalized.

To that end, they suggest amendments to the proposals to mandate that it’s only a crime to reproduce copyright works when the act causes real financial damage to content owners, in the case of those who pirate whole movies, music, manga publications, books, and so on.

If you're looking for a silver lining in all of this, perhaps one can be found in this being a perfect litmus test for how government that bows to moneyed interests will react to the most modest of requests against those interests. In other words, the academics in this case are essentially asking that the law eventually do only 90% of what it originally aimed to do.

If the Japanese government can't be bothered to take even that request seriously, then perhaps the public should give up on it entirely.

Filed Under: copyright, criminal copyright, japan


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  1. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 22 Feb 2019 @ 3:09am

    Re:

    If a law mandating criminal courts handle normal filesharing and downloading ever passes the poor, soon-to-be-bankrupted nation to implement such a law will be looking at a bill of hosting prisoners which will exceed the actual BNP. And that's if less than 1% of the estimated pirates are ever prosecuted.

    At 30-60 k USD a year, an inmate is expensive. With 10-30% of the population suddenly adding that cost plus court expenses per head the idiot to suggest and implement said law won't be in office long.

    Not that bobmail ever cared to add two and two together - in his little fevered mind there are no limit on prisons and law enforcement nor will there be a public outcry when the cost to the public purse of prosecuting and sentencing filesharers suddenly exceeds the cost of every other crime in existence added together, by several orders of magnitude.

    This is why you can't take the copyright cult very seriously. They have spent so long believing imagination is the basis of the economy they can't even count anymore.


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