Japan May Make YouTube Illegal

| 21 Jun 2012 09:55

A change in Japanese copyright laws revives bad memories of SOPA and PIPA.


When SOPA and PIPA came into being it was with a fanfare, and they went out in much the same way. They do things differently in Japan, and when the last Aum cult member - a man accused of conspiring to release Sarin nerve gas on the Tokyo subway - was arrested, among the news buried on the back pages that same day was a little-remarked item that said a revision to copyright law had been passed by the House of Representatives. The revision went through without discussion, opposition or much media coverage, and the end result is that, when the law comes into force in October, it will be illegal for Japanese citizens to watch protected material via YouTube - even if they happen to be doing it in Los Angeles.

Attorney at law Toshimitsu Dan points out that the revisions effectively make three acts illegal: ripping and copying of copy-protected and encoded materials (which are no longer covered by a personal use exemption); the sale of software and hardware that circumvents copy protection; and the intentional download of illegally uploaded materials. Or, as the newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun puts it, "even one click is now a crime." Punishment includes a fine of up to about US$25,000 and/or a prison sentence of not more than two years. But the really fun part is that, thanks to some remarkably lax wording in the revision, the penalties can apply to Japanese citizens even if they don't happen to be in Japan at the time. Someone idling away on YouTube while waiting for their plane at LAX, is just as liable as someone ripping DVDs in Yokohama.

There has been no opposition to the revisions to date, and precious little public discussion. The only people who know much about it are the otaku, a subculture that is not well respected by many Japanese. This means that, come October, the revisions will become law. Arrests will no doubt follow soon afterward, and whether the accused is a pirate movie mogul or just some schlub watching smile videos on Nico Nico Douga is ultimately a matter of chance.

Source: Kotaku

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