Japanese Downloaders Risk Prison From Today

Japan has stepped up its campaign against music pirates who now risk prison time for downloading an illegal file, but critics say it could criminalise innocent people.

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Japan has introduced an anti-piracy law that will target illegal downloaders with a two year prison sentence and a 2 million yen ($26,000) fine.

The Recording Industry Association of Japan claims that illegal downloads in the country outnumber legitimate ones by 10 to 1, and that the legal download market shrank by 16% in 2011.

The country already threatens people who originally upload illegal files with up to 10 years in prison and a 10 million yen ($128,000) fine, but the new law will criminalise people for simply downloading the content.

Torrent Freak highlights concerns over how copyright owners will prove that someone has downloaded content illegally.

For example, to track downloads over torrent sites the copyright owner would have to share the file in the first place. In theory, this makes it a legal download because it comes from the official rights holder.

And while torrent users are usually aware that they're committing an offence, there are fears that accidentally viewing an infringing YouTube video could break the law.

With global illegal music downloads estimated to top 405 million in the first half of 2012, many countries are introducing new laws to combat digital theft.

Last week the US ISP Mediacom announced plans to ban pirates for life if they broke a new three-strike rule, which makes the US government's forthcoming plans for a nationwide six-strike rule look relatively tame.

Is the game up for illegal downloads, or do you think pirates will find a new way to evade the law? Might these changes give a welcome boost to the music industry? Let us know in the comments.

46 comments sorted by best / new / date

    "And while torrent users are usually aware that they're committing an offence, there are fears that accidentally viewing an infringing YouTube video could break the law." There must be hundreds (maybe thousands) of songs available for view on YouTube that were uploaded by people who don't own the copyright of the song. So they're saying that watching one of these YouTube videos is breaking the law even though you didn't upload it? Wow! Some of those songs have been viewed 10,000+ times. Better start building some new prisons for these dangerous YouTube criminals.
    Some of those lyric videos have been viewed a few million times, and we thought jails were crowded now.
    So does that mean that over half the population in the developed world would be unemployed because they've been to prison and have a criminal record?
    Hey, that's one path to develop more jobs, I suppose. More prisoners require more guards, and the jobs these guys lose when to go to jail, means more available jobs for those without jobs. Win-win!
    Too bad prison guards are government jobs and there would be no taxes coming in to pay them. Japan is in trouble.
    I think they should focus on other things like, perhaps, not censoring things in adult videos (seriously, what IS the point?)
    They censor their adult videos? I'm writing a very strongly worded to letter to a few video sites very soon! Also piracy is stupid and japan are stupid for doing it etc. There needs to be a solution, but this isn't it.
    Woah, I personally stand against piracy, but 2 years of jail can really **** someone up. Emotionally, may make it harder to get a job, etc etc... IMO a fine would be enough punishment. Anyway, I think it would barely work, but we'll see.
    Illegal downloading will never be stopped. No matter what. People managed to get cheap tapes and records back in the day. Same old, same old.
    the punishment doesnt fit the crime...while i not anti illegal downloading im ok with the being a punishment, say a small fine or something but the whole jail time is rediculous
    Bad Kharmel
    these punishments seem over kill, why don't they just make you pay the market price for the content rather than ruining peoples lives for "stealing" $1-$2 songs, and $5-$15 dollar movies
    Well, just making them pay market price isn't really a punishment at all, it doesn't do anything to deter pirates. Although I think that the current system is pretty ridiculous and needs to be changed.
    Well if you ask me, without file sharing I guarantee you some bands wouldn't be where they are today. Yeah, it may be stealing but it's a faster way of getting the word around as anyone can do it and you pay enough for merchandise and gigs anyway.
    If a band wants people to have their music for free they'll release it for free. Stop trying to justify stealing
    Lmao, I'm not. I'm just telling you how it really seems to be right now. If I was justifying stealing I'd be telling you it's acceptable to go to a local HMV and snatching your favourite CD's without paying.
    I kind of agree with you here. The only reason I came to know about bands like Dream Theater, Megadeth, Porcupine Tree, Rush, and Fates Warning was because I was able to download a few songs from them that made me like the bands, therefore turning me into a Prog fan. I'm talking about 10 to 15 years ago (using Napster with a 56K modem ), when bands that actually played solos in songs had literally zero radio airplay or promotion in any other medium besides internet forums, usually by their fans. Even today, those bands are only known by a certain sector of the population, but the point was that if the Internet weren't around, I probably would have never heard of those bands at all in the first place. I would blame the greedy record execs who have no clue as to what good music is and that dedicated their lives to r@ping music fans with infinite one-hit wonder bands. Really, if they promoted and released more quality music, I would buy more records. Even then, I usually buy an album or two a month, usually from older bands, though. It's getting really hard to find albums down where I live because the only stores that carry albums are Walmart and Best Buy
    Couldn't agree more bud. I like to buy music every once in a while. Having a CD with all the artwork is great but the shops don't really help with a music taste like ours. I just stick to online when buying now though, all places near me are money hungry bastards trying to rip me off. -.-
    Todays forcast: A giant shitstorm Appears to be on its way towards the comment section of this article, insults and opinions will reach speeds of 50wpm
    if, i dont know, 500 people asked me if they could own my album for free, i'd say yes straight away. but. if i had committed everything i had to it, if i'd given up my job for it, spend months touring with no money for it, not seen my family because of it, and then they wanted it for free? then we'd have a problem. so i can see what's going on here. listen, musicians do make money from their shows, and their merchandise. of course. but, if your album isnt making money, your label wont give a rats ass about promoting you as much as they will their other bands. so, you're gonna sell less merch, and less tickets to your gigs. not saying everything there is set in stone, im not an agent or a promoter or a record label executive. whatever they do in japan, never surprises me anymore. it's ridiculous to send people to jail for 2 years for downloading. but the sooner there is a system for kids to have access to the music they want, in a real way, without it taking away from the artist, the better.
    This is stupid. You beat the hell outta someone what do you get, maybe a few months in prison? 6 tops? Download a song that doesn't have potential to emotionally or physically scar someone gets you 2 years in jail. Punishment too extreme
    Epi g-310
    I'm under Mediacom. My older brother was caught downloading Skyrim (twice, because the first torrent was corrupted or something), so we have one strike left. While I am for filesharing, to a certain degree, I can support this method of anti-piracy, because I know I'm sure as hell not torrenting anymore. There aren't any other decent ISP's in this area, so I don't want to lose my interwebz. That's how I think this stuff should be handled. Let the ISP's cover it, because it's working. No need to involve lawsuits, prison time or monetary fines.
    Think of it this way: Millions of people given jail time for youtube offences, more jails are built, these jails are full of completely safe internet piracy criminals. You go download some music, get a place with free rent free food for two years.
    When will the recording industry just give up the pointless fight on piracy? This is the internet. It's not going to stop. It's just information that's in the air at this point.
    while i certainly don't support prison sentences for illegal downloading, i also don't understand why people don't realize how it's wrong. like, seriously? it's not a victimless crime.
    I've downloaded music illegally in the past, I think almost everyone has. But I do think it should be illegal but... jail time for it... bit ridiculous... I guess they're just making an example of people
    Emenius Sleepus
    Clearly these evil downloaders are threatening to tear apart the moral fabric of society... Oh wait, these unknown bands just got a mass amount of free exposure. I'm fairly certain the police resources are not being used in the best way here. But as far as the recording "industry" is concerned, all the words in the world as to how ridiculous their approach is, will just fall on deaf ears, as they always have.
    The title on this article sounds like it was written by drunk Yoda. It should be, "Japan slams internet pirates." One day people will realize, if you make a good product and connect with your audience, they will pay you for it. A lot of people download stuff then when they have the extra money they go and buy said download. Evolve or die, time the entertainment industry learn what the auto industry didn't and had to be bailed out because of...
    Why should the fans of music be punished this shows how f***ing stupid the whole recording industry is world wide. A lot of people do download to see if a new album is good or sucks so they can buy it. There is THREE MAIN REASONS why 90% of the world illegally download music: 1. Record labels stopped printing and releasing older albums which is brain dead in my opinion 2. Record stores don't sell s**t for albums anymore whether the album is still printed or not making it harder for fans to find albums they love 3. THE F***ING ECONOMY! Maybe if people could actually find a job and work which would give them $$$ they'll actually purchase the albums but when your living off $20 a week and struggling to get by day after day you're gonna get the album for free by downloading it. I 100% understand why all these musicians are getting pissed over this because they're losing more and more money but its their job and the crooks running the recording industry is making them look like the bad guys and being a bunch of pussies not wanting to admit how bad they actually f***ed up
    A 12 year old's earnings from mowing a neighbor's lawn is by law taxable income. This struggle to curtail privacy seems as fruitless as the IRS collecting casual lawn mowing revenue. The industry and government are trying to hit a moving target. Instead of going after the piracy method of the week, they need to figure out how to prevent further innovation and loopholes. There will always be piracy, but if piracy innovates faster than policy, the incentive to be a career recording artist will disappear. The older generations are more removed from piracy than the young. Once they die out, we'll be left with a population that grew up with the various forms of piracy. I am not fearful of the next decade, but the next twenty or thirty years, who knows. Maybe I should just load up a few hard drives now with enough unheard music to last my lifetime
    they said piracy users are 10 to 1... so theyre just gonna send 90% of their population to jail?
    I'd love to see people back to buying music. But it's not right to do that by forcing people into it in such a severe way. It kinda ruins buying a cd if you're doing it just cause you're scared you'll get arrested
    Not this shit again. It's all scare tactics. All everyone is doing is just saying "stop downloading or else we'll..... do..... something..... maybe.... when we feel like it"
    Whoa, with this law they should build a huge wall around Japan, there won't be anyone innocent.
    I guess I could calmly go around the street on a killing spree from now on since it wouldn't make any difference, i mean, with all the videos y watched and uploaded in youtube, I would spend the rest of my life in prison.
    Jail sounds a bit extreme... I think they should just force illegal downloaders to pay extra price for the music they have downloaded. I'd be fine with that.