The Japanese Diet just passed an amendment to the copyright law on June 20, 2012. There are several revisions to be made to the copyright law by this amendment and the revised copyright law will take effect on January 1, 2013. According to one of these revisions, a person who illegally downloads copyrighted contents may be sentenced to a criminal penalty such as imprisonment with work if the copyright holder files a complaint. This particular revision will take effect in advance on October 1, 2012.
Summary of revised copyright law
(2) The national diet library can make automatic public transmissions of out-of-print materials to other libraries and the other libraries can reproduce the publicly transmitted out-of-print materials for users. This revision is to develop an environment in which people can widely access publications with limitations to encourage the development of an electronic publication market.
(3) The national archives of Japan can exploit official documents when providing them to the public. This revision is to make it possible to publicize or reproduce copyrighted official documents.
(2) Infringement by illegal downloads incurs a criminal penalty. This is discussed below in detail.
Discussion on illegal downloads
Prior to the present amendment, the copyright law was amended on January 1, 2010 such that the download of illegally uploaded contents was made illegal, although illegal downloads did not incur a criminal penalty, in order to prevent the distribution of illegal contents and properly protect content businesses and copyright holders.
However, the distribution of illegal contents has not decreased in spite of the previous amendment and a more efficient measure has been sought. Under the circumstances, the copyright law has been revised so that the punishment for the illegal downloads may be made stringent by introducing a criminal penalty.
The revised copyright law now prescribes that a person who makes digital audio or visual recordings of a paid copyrighted work that infringes on a copyright by receiving the automatic public transmission thereof for private use purposes, where the infringement is made with the knowledge of the facts described above, shall be punishable by imprisonment with work for a term not more than two years and/or by a fine of not more than two million yen. In this case, prosecution shall take place only upon the filing of a complaint.
This revision is expected to make people understand the importance of copyrights and help prevent casual download of illegally uploaded contents. However, this revision has caused controversies among people because it may affect the way many people use the Internet. Some people fear that this revision might unreasonably restrict the use of the Internet because there is a possibility that any person could incur a criminal offense just by downloading content from the Internet that has been illegally uploaded. In this connection, the revised copyright law requires that an infringer has intent to infringe. Only those who know that a copyrighted content is for-profit and has been illegally uploaded can be charged and a complaint should be filed to charge that infringer. These requirements are expected to maintain the balance between content businesses and the public. We hope that the revised copyright law will work fine in view of the protection of copyrights while maintaining the convenience of the Internet.