Call me surprised. We have been recently discussing a proposal in Japan to alter copyright law in the country to criminalize every single instance of copyright infringement, rather than saving any of that for the civil courts. The bonkers proposal would take the current law, in which all instances of copyright infringement on movies and music carry criminal penalties and expand that to essentially all copyright infringement everywhere. This would include screenshots, posting lyrics to songs, and the like. Shortly after all of this was announced, a large group of Japanese academics wrote an open statement to the government indicating their concern that allowing the new law to move forward would result in an extreme chilling effect on internet usage in the country. At the time, I said it was a litmus test for whether the government would take any objection to the law seriously, tame as it was. It was also likely clear that I wasn't optimistic.
Well, surprise, the government has actually put the proposal on hold out of a concern for the very chilling effects those academics raised.
The planned copyright amendments were set to be submitted to the Diet on March 8, 2019 but according to local sources, Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP or Jimintō) put the brakes on the proposals the day before they were due to be submitted.
Reports suggest that the party had such serious concerns over the scope of the law that its implementation might mean that “use of the Internet would be atrophied.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly held a telephone call with Keisya Furuya, the former National Public Safety Commissioner and chairman of the bipartisan MANGA (Manga-Animation-Game) parliamentary group on March 6, 2019. According to AnimeNewsNetwork, this led to the decision to remove the proposals from the agenda.
And so the law now goes back to the Ministry of Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for further discussion. The ultimate fate of the law is yet to be decided, of course, but this should be encouraging for the pessimists among us (Hi!) that tend to believe these restrictive laws in favor of content companies always get railroaded through no matter the people's protest. In this case, at least, it seems that protest worked.
Part of that may be because, again, those objecting to the law did so on only the mildest grounds.
Scholars and other experts are suggesting that the best route is to only criminalize actions that cause real financial damage to content owners.
The general consensus among the academics is that making infringement criminally punishable may be acceptable, but only when full copyright works – such as movies, music, manga publications, and books – are exploited in their entirety.
Which, you know, okay. That's probably still too onerous, but at least it's a step back from the truly insane route Japan was on.
Filed Under: copyright, criminal, japan