From the start of this month, Japanese downloaders will face fines of up to $25,000 and a two year prison sentence thanks to new changes to the country's copyright laws
October 1st marked the first day under which Japan's new harsh copyright laws come into effect. From this point onwards, anyone caught download just a single piece of infringing content can face penalties of up to two million yen (USD $25,000), as well as receiving a 2 year prison sentence.
As the law is targeting downloaders, and not uploaders, even anyone who downloads the "wrong" file could, theoretically, be sent to prison. The law distinguishes betweens streaming and downloading, so just watching a YouTube video may still be safe, but whether caching is still considered a form of downloading may require further testing in the courts. For uploaders, possibly including BitTorrent downloaders that also make an upload contribution, a heftier 10 million yen fine and a 10 year prison sentence awaits.
The Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) lobbied heavily for the introduction of the law to curb the problem of web piracy, which they say is responsible for 10 media downloads out of every 11 (the 1 being a legitimate download).
However, critics, including the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, say that moving the offence from the civil domain to the criminal is an overreach, as damages from such offences are too "insignificant" to warrant such drastic action.
But the RIAJ is adamant that these changes will be to the benefit of the creative industries. "This revision will reduce the spread of copyright infringement activities on the internet," said RIAJ chairman Naoki Kitagawa earlier in the year.
Kitagawa is also the current chief executive Sony Music Entertainment Japan.