Japan Approves New Law To Make Manga Piracy A Criminal Offense

from the what-constitution? dept

Roughly a year and a half ago, we discussed a proposed amendment to Japanese copyright law that would seek to criminalize copyright infringement. The general consensus is that the chief impetus for this new addition to Japanese copyright law centered on the manga industry, which is a multi-billion dollar industry, despite that particular media being pirated alongside all other media. Whereas Japan's copyright laws were generally in line with American laws, specifically in that copyright infringement is treated as a civil matter, this new law changed that up to make it a criminal offense. The problem with that, as many people pointed out, is that Japan's constitution is quite clear that anything akin to censorship cannot be done except for the following circumstance:

“An act unavoidably performed to avert a present danger to the life, body, liberty or property of oneself or any other person is not punishable only when the harmc produced by such act does not exceed the harm to be averted."

For years and year, copyright infringement didn't meet that threshold. Now, suddenly, the Japanese government says it does. The idea of Japan eroding its own constitution as a favor to the manga industry is almost too insane to believe, except that it happened.

There were other complaints about the proposed law, including the proposed draconian punishments that would have been handed out. The Japanese government claims to have addressed those concerns in a now approved draft of the legislation.

The draft legislation criminalizes the downloading of unlicensed manga, magazines and academic publications from the Internet. The penalties will be brought into line for those already in place for music and movies with a maximum two-year prison sentence and/or a fine of two million yen (US$19,118). The most severe penalties will be reserved for egregious and repeat offenders.

In a step back from earlier proposals, Internet users will be allowed to download some image-based and academic content for limited private use in order not to stifle the flow of information and education, provided that activity does not impact copyright holders. Where the precise boundaries lie is currently unclear, however.

As we stated in our initial post, this is going to be a complete mess. For starters, criminal codes that represent massive culture-shifts to an entire country that can be described as "unclear" seem to be almost perfectly constructed to produce chaos. One can expect the courts to be suddenly full of such cases, with defendants that will have no idea why they are in court, why they were arrested, and why they might face jail time. And that's if this law isn't immediately challenged in Japanese courts on constitutional grounds, since the changes made to the drafted law still don't address the prohibition on censorship.

On top of that, some of the targets of this legislation aren't actually direct infringers.

One aspect that is perfectly clear is the outlawing of so-called “leech” sites. These platforms, known in the West as linking or indexing sites, do not carry any copyrighted content themselves but provide hyperlinks to infringing material hosted elsewhere.

Operating such a service in Japan will become punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of five million yen (US$47,780). The latest estimates suggest that there may be up 200 of these “leech” sites in the country, a figure the government is hoping to reduce.

It seems fairly insane to punish sites that merely link to other content with five figure fines and five year prison sentences.

But then it seems that insanity is all that's on the menu for this change in the law. Vaguely-worded, manga-protecting criminalization of copyright infringement that violates the constitution is a series of words I never thought I'd write, but c'est la vie.

Filed Under: copyright, criminal copyright, japan, manga


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 8:35pm

    gtfo people pretending to be japan

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 8:50pm

    The draft legislation criminalizes the downloading of unlicensed manga, magazines and academic publications from the Internet.

    License culture in action. For instance, works in the public domain have no license, nor is one required. The article, at least, does not mention the public domain.

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

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 11 Mar 2020 @ 8:53pm

    Nobody hates copyright law more than copyright maxmalists.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 9:03pm

    A word, if I may?

    Yes, the "linking is going to be a crime" is new and bad.
    Yes, the "downloading manga, magazines, and scientific publications" is also new and bad.

    But as one of the post's links tell it, the corrosion of the constitution in the service of copyright started in 2012, when "unlicensed music and movies" were criminalized. Techdirt noted it at the time. Ya might have mentioned that in the article, Tim.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 9:35pm

    It seems fairly insane to punish sites that merely link to other content with five figure fines and five year prison sentences

    It does, but this is the sort of scenario that has copyright fanboys scream "dame dame iku" as they cream in their pants. Someone's been sucking the right cocks...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Mar 2020 @ 9:35pm

    When unlicensed tentacle porn is illegal, only criminals will masturbate to unlicensed tentacle porn...?

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

  • identicon
    Avideogamerplayer, 12 Mar 2020 @ 2:40am

    A country bend over for copyright? This is news to me, senpai San.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2020 @ 7:51am

    Is unlicensed licensing illegal?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2020 @ 8:06am

    It's worth remembering that a lot of content on such manga sites (as well as anime sites) contain fan-translated works, works which have not received an official English-speaking translation yet. The demand is there, but the translations are not, or they may not be widely available such as for an out-of-print manga. A lot of the people who use such sites do actually purchase the official mangas as well as other merchandise.

    It's a similar situation as with emulation. Emulation represents a convenience for the consumers who often support the developers financially, but often emulation helps preserve games which do not have official translations or widespread re-releases available.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Mar 2020 @ 8:37am

      Re:

      That's true, but sadly there is always somebody that wants to be the IP trigger-happy Nintendo of their own industry.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 12 Mar 2020 @ 9:28pm

      Re:

      Offhand I can think of at least two manga series that I only knew about and picked up thanks to a site that offered fan translated versions for mangas, mangas that I wouldn't have even known existed without the site, and I've no doubt that I am not alone in that situation.

      The maximalists who pushed this through may think that they won a victory here but I suspect it's going to be a pyrrhic one at best, as any theoretical 'lost sales' from infringement are outweighed by actual lost sales from people buying less thanks to no way to sample or learn about a new series without paying.

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

  • icon
    tom (profile), 12 Mar 2020 @ 8:18am

    Much laughter will ensue when CEOs of Manga production companies start facing criminal charges over copyright theft when some low level deadline pressured under paid artist downloads "inspiring" manga from another publisher in order to make their production deadlines setup during the last employee evaluation.

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

  • identicon
    Professor Ronny, 12 Mar 2020 @ 11:47am

    Linking

    It seems fairly insane to punish
    sites that merely link to other
    content with five figure fines and
    five year prison sentences.

    Has anyone told Google about this?

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 12 Mar 2020 @ 12:46pm

    WELL...

    With the idea of Laws around the world being Equal..which means laws in 1 nation can be pressed into another..
    And its the Corps pushing this..with those strange Trade agreements..

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

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 12 Mar 2020 @ 1:52pm

    The problem with that, as many people pointed out, is that Japan's constitution is quite clear that anything akin to censorship cannot be done except for the following circumstance:

    Can someone explain to me how they reconcile the portion of the constitution preventing censorship with the requirement that pubic hair and genitals be censored in any media depicting nudity?

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 13 Mar 2020 @ 6:39am

      Re:

      "Can someone explain to me how they reconcile the portion of the constitution preventing censorship with the requirement that pubic hair and genitals be censored in any media depicting nudity?"

      They really don't.

      But if they had to do it they'd answer "it's a traditional law from the early meiji era and no one here has the balls to rock the boat to fix what probably isn't broken."

      Bear in mind that Japan is the country which, when #MeToo struck the world, reacted with outrage - mainly aimed at the benighted women who were being so unbelievably rude as to mention shameful things in public.

      As a less outrageous side note the japanese censorship rules, as adopted from copying what the first japanese ambassadors thought was the victorian reason for abhorring nudity, was also the reason much of japanese eroticism would be considered pure CP today...depictions of pubic hair and big breasts being believed to be what the english found most offensive. Something every shunga artist and erotic artist then found a way around by making erotic depictions of what ended up resembling prebubescent juveniles...

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

      • identicon
        Rekrul, 17 Mar 2020 @ 8:09pm

        Re: Re:

        As a less outrageous side note the japanese censorship rules, as adopted from copying what the first japanese ambassadors thought was the victorian reason for abhorring nudity, was also the reason much of japanese eroticism would be considered pure CP today...depictions of pubic hair and big breasts being believed to be what the english found most offensive. Something every shunga artist and erotic artist then found a way around by making erotic depictions of what ended up resembling prebubescent juveniles...

        Is that the reason that every woman in Japanese porn sounds like a 12 year old girl?

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


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