Japan: Outlawing Illegal Downloads

id:seshiapple picks up [ja] comments from a thread on Japanese bulletin board 2-Channel in which IT journalist Daisuke Tsuda asks 2-channelers: “The outlawing of [illegal] downloads is almost finalized, do you have any questions?” As reported in an IT media article [ja] from Oct. 20th, Tsuda was the only member of a committee on the outlawing decision to oppose the idea, although many others, such as economist and blogger Nobuo Ikeda, have voiced similar concerns in the past. An early comment explains that the move would make downloading copyrighted files through services such as BitTorrent illegal.


  • nescire

    “Outlawing illegal downloads”

    So how, and why, do you outlaw something already illegal? Funny that you should use such an oxymoron as title. It captures pretty well the confusion which exists about these issues, in Japan and elsewhere.

    Copyright infringement is illegal, and can already be prosecuted as such.

    BitTorrent is nothing more than a protocol to distribute data, similar in purpose to (and partially relying on) HTTP, which is the protocol used for websites.

    This move, as I understand it, would make using the BitTorrent protocol itself illegal, which is nothing short of insane from a technical point of view, and betrays a lack of fundamental understanding of the issue by the lawmakers.

  • @nescire

    Sorry, that was a bad title I agree, hit the publish button a bit too fast.

    I have actually written about this topic before and I am well aware of the issues you bring up. The basic gist of the current regulation is that whereas only uploads of copyrighted information were formerly illegal, now downloads of copyrighted information are also illegal. This opens up a pandora’s box of problems since everything on the net is downloaded.

    This is a very important issue, and not given nearly enough attention in Japan IMHO.

  • Level3

    Catch me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t there something about also making it illegal to just VIEW illegally uploaded copyright material on Youtube or Niconico or similar services? defining the mere viewing itseld as \downloading\?

  • RMilner

    I am astonished that downloading copyrighted works was not an infringement previously, since downloading is simply copying.

    It certainly should be an infringement though there are problems of course with detecting infringers.

    Does this new file make all downloads illegal, including legal ones?

  • nescire

    Good article. I wasn’t aware Japanese policy makers were so far down the rabbit hole (or maybe we are, since few people seem to care). Big media lobbyists tried to get stuff like this passed in Europe, Canada, and Australia too. It’s disturbing how authorities are willing to outlaw most of their population without a second thought.

    Also thanks for the clarification, but it makes me wonder how Japanese law handles copyright creation.

    In the US at least, a copyright exists by default on any kind of creative work (with a very stretched definition of “creative”), which would includes most of anything on the web, and Internet in general.

    Assuming Japan law is similar to this, and these new laws come to pass, you’d have a situation where:
    * Next to everything on the net is copyrighted.
    * Unauthorized access to copyrighted materials is illegal.
    * It’s impossible to know whether accessing something is illegal until after comitting the act.

    Cheerful stuff all around =/.

  • @RMilner

    “I am astonished that downloading copyrighted works was not an infringement previously, since downloading is simply copying.”

    This is a very complex issue in many ways, but the basic idea is that it makes more sense to go after the person *uploading* the content than it does to go after the person *downloading* the content. If you think about it everything on the web is downloaded, so you risk outlawing a huge range of activity when you outlaw downloads: how do I know when I view your webpage that the content on it is not copyrighted? Once I have downloaded it onto my computer, am I now liable for copyright infringement?

    The case of uploading is easier to handle since it covers a much more narrow range of activity, where the user knows what content is that they are dealing with (and hence can be held accountable for it).

    For more on this, have a look at article 30 of Japan’s Copyright Law.

  • For those who are interested in this issue, there is more info about the outlawing of downloads at chosaq.net.

  • […] out on Tsuda's Twitter feed, many readers wanted to know more, so Tsuda decided on Oct. 20th to start a thread at the VIP Board on 2-channel [ja], Japan's largest bulletin board. He titled the thread with a […]

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