Japan has yet to formally join the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, but that isn't stopping its citizens from speaking out against restrictive copyright measures found within the TPP text. There are weekly anti-TPP rallies in front of government buildings and a large public gathering is being organized for early next month.
Article by Maira Sutton for EFF
Japan is yet another of many countries where Big Content is working closely with policymakers to enact expansive copyright laws in the name of fighting off threats to their profit bottom lines. In terms of copyright policy, it has been an especially big year for Japan.
In June, the Japanese government passed a new copyright bill that enacted criminal penalties for downloading, uploading, and simply viewing copyrighted materials. The bill also placed brand new restrictions on digital content, such as the criminalization of circumventing DRM on DVDs.
Prior to that, after years of supporting backroom negotiations for the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Japan hosted the signing ceremony in Tokyo in December 2011. Despite its defeat in Europe, we have no reason to assume it has died. This is supported by the fact that it continues to inch its way through the Japanese legislature towards ratification. The coming threat is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, the international trade agreement that carries an intellectual property chapter that goes even farther than ACTA to restrict and criminalize sharing and accessing content.
Japan’s copyright laws have been growing more restrictive in and of themselves. Until recently, what was only illegal was the upload of unauthorized copyrighted content. In 2010, due to heavy lobbying from the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC), the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology passed an amendment—despite huge opposition from the public—making unauthorized downloads illegal as well. These amendments, however, didn’t outline specific legal consequences for violations.
So in June of this year, again following pressure from the JASRAC and other Big Content interests, the Japanese government passed heavy penalties for infringement. Effective in October, a charge of copyright infringement could land a person prison for two years or fine them for up two million yen (about $25,400). In addition, the new law enacted an entirely new provision banning circumventing DRM on DVDs, even if it’s only for making a back-up copy of the disc. Already it seems that Japanese authorities are prematurely enforcing the latter provision: In mid-July, four employees of a publishing company, including its executive, were arrested for selling a guidebook explaining how to copy DVDs that included software to enable stripping DRM off of the discs. This is the first time in Japan arrests have ever been made of this kind. The Recording Industry Association of Japan went on to pressure ISPs to install spying technologies that will automatically block unauthorized uploads of copyrighted content.
In the same vein, the Japanese government has always been an avid supporter of ACTA, being the first to get on board with the US during negotiations and being further demonstrated by the fact that they had hosted the ACTA-signing ceremony last October. While they haven’t yet fully ratified the agreement, the Upper House of the Japanese legislature passed it almost unanimously [JP], and it is unclear when the vote in the Lower House will occur.
Despite wide governmental support for ACTA, the Japanese public is going on the defensive. Riding on public resentment towards the government’s nuclear energy policies, Japanese opposition against ACTA is growing quickly and substantially. Activists are also calling attention towards the TPP as a threat to their digital freedoms in light of increasing indication that Japan will join those negotiations. Read more»
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