Japan pushes more severe penalties for digital pirates

Japan just recently changed its cybercrime law by introducing bigger fines for people found to be downloading illegal software.  Internet users in Japan will now up to years of imprisonment or pay a fine of up to two million yen or $25,000.

Downloading illegal software had been criminalized in Japan since 2010 although the country did not invoke the penalties.

The change in the law followed persistent lobbying by the country’s music industry.

Critics of the modified law said government effort should be directed towards people making the software available instead.

Parties found to have uploaded illegal materials in Japan will face 10 year imprisonment and a fine of about 10 million yen.

Japan is second to the U.S. in terms of music sales figures.

Japanese residents can be accused of illegally downloading a software even if guilty of getting only a single file.

The country’s Recording Industry Association of Japan argued that the law is needed in the country as illegal media downloads outnumber legal ones by about 10 by 1.

The said figures were based on a previous study conducted in 2010, revealing that Japanese users illegally downloaded about 4.36 billion  music and video file while only about 440 million legal purchases were made. It also added that the figure could have increased over the following months.

Japanese politicians approved the move in June.

The change prompted critics to protest and private and government websites were briefly taken offline after they were attacked.

Last July, a group of protesters wearing  masks associated with Anonymous marched in Tokyo.

The Japan Federation of Bar Associations think the offense should be classified as a civil rather than as a criminal issue.

The group said” “Treating personal activities with criminal punishments must be done very cautiously, and the property damage caused by individual illegal downloads by private individuals is highly insignificant.”

Japan’s move is seen as part of the worldwide crackdown on online piracy.

Months before, the United States government brought down Megaupload while Ukraine hit the BitTorrent site Demonoid. The United Kingdom made as example the owner of the Surfthechannel by jailing him, while The Pirate Bay site had been restricted in many countries around the world. The Pirate Bay’s co-founder was recently arrested in Cambodia and was deported to Sweden to face government tax charges there.

Other European countries like France also asserted their cybercrime laws. France imposed a fine to one of its citizen’s for the first time citing its “three strikes” rule which allows it to enforce the law if a suspect does not heed the warnings for his activity.

In Asia, the Republic of the Philippines activated its controversial cybercrime law as well, including online libel as a crime punishable for up to 12 years in prison.

The international crackdown does not come without resistance though.

The United States put off votes for SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and Pipa (Protect IP Act) early this year following protests of Wikipedia and thousands of other sites as protest.

In Europe, the European Parliament rejected Acta (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) last July when the opposition became too much across the EU.

source: bbc