Illegal downloads given stiff penalties in Japan

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Japan is to introduce tough penalties for internet users who download copyright-infringing material - with fines of up to $25,700 and a potential two-year jail term.

Japan's the world's second-largest music market - but illegal downloads account for a whacking ninety percent of the total.

And while such activity has been illegal since 2010, the authorities had turned a blind eye. But under pressure from the country's music industry, it's now to start fining downloaders as well as uploaders.

The move has caused concern that it could potentially criminalize the use of YouTube - chock full of illegal content. But, says Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs, viewing videos won't be illegal, only downloading them.

According to TorrentFreak, though, the Recording Industry Association of Japan wants to go even further, and has developed a system designed to automatically detect unauthorized uploads. ISPs would use it to filter material before publication.

It sounds a lot like the digital rights management system that shut down Ustream's broadcast of the Hugo Awards last month, because it thought copyright was being infringed.

Meanwhile, Panama has passed a new copyright law that allows the country's copyright agency to accuse individuals of copyright infringement, conduct hearings itself, impose fines of up to US $100,000 and give it as bonuses to the employees who catch the offenders.

"Seems a sure-fire recipe for abuse and conflict-of-interest," says David Sohn of the Center for Democracy and Technology.