The Pirates of Tokyo

Ivan Schneider, Writer, specializing in financial technology | 11/28/2012 | 92 comments

Ivan Schneider
If you live in Japan and illegally download copyrighted content, you may face two years in jail and a fine of 2 million yen -- or about $24,000 -- stemming from new anti-copyright penalties that went into effect in October 2012.

While not as harsh as the maximum 10-year, 10-million-yen penalty for uploading illegal content, the penalty for downloading still makes for a strong deterrent with far-reaching effects. The new penalties were the subject of a panel discussion held in mid-November at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

If you don't live in Japan, you may be tempted to dismiss this news as just another one of those oddball foreign news items, a curiosity that could never happen in the US or wherever you happen to live. The limitation of that blinkered approach is that we live in an increasingly connected world, especially when it comes to media, entertainment, and technology.

Advanced economies like the US and Japan increasingly rely upon high-value entertainment in global trade. As former US Senator Chris Dodd, now the head of the MPAA, said in a recent BusinessWeek article: "We [in the entertainment industry] bring more revenue back to the U.S. than agriculture, automobiles, and aerospace." With the aging of Japan and the offshoring of Japan's manufacturing base, the country's domestic entertainment producers are taking a hard line on protecting their revenues.

With the anti-piracy law, Japan will become a laboratory for new technological approaches to detecting copyright violations as well as crafting new and legal approaches to content delivery. With digital content becoming more common in manufacturing with 3D printing, we can only expect the battlefield to widen.

Similarly, we should expect nothing but the highest levels of creativity from those seeking to circumvent those same laws. The net result will be a ratcheting up of the sophistication of technological approaches to manage and distribute content, with those approaches tested by hundreds of millions of avid consumers of various forms of content in Japan.

With content partnerships at stake, technology companies may come under intense pressure to ensure that personal technology solutions, whether PC, mobile, tablet, or otherwise, protect their users from themselves. Furthermore, if you actively avoid such technologies, you may open yourself up to additional scrutiny by regimes that maintain a vigilant stance against content piracy. Or, if you fail to install sufficient defenses, you may discover that malware or viruses have downloaded illegal content onto your PC, leaving you to prove to the authorities that you have no idea how those movies or songs got there.

Also, this becomes an enterprise technology issue to the extent that measures put into place to prevent illegal downloads create security vulnerabilities with regard to enterprise data. As we've seen in the past with the Sony rootkit scandal, when you allow external parties to monitor files for compliance, you also create the possibility for a security breach. It's one thing when an enterprise monitors its own technology for policy violations, and an entirely different thing when an enterprise hands the keys to a third party or government agency.

In the US, the Internet industry led the fight against SOPA and PIPA, leading to a standoff that remains to be settled. Japan offers a counterexample, where the criminalization of downloading has created the conditions for a copyright-centric computing environment to be born.

I'd welcome your legally permissible, rights-approved comments below.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 10   >   >>
batye   The Pirates of Tokyo   12/3/2012 11:31:24 AM
Re: illegal content and copyright violations
new technology make it easy, old generation before us were making LP out of Xray films...
Susan Nunziata   The Pirates of Tokyo   11/30/2012 8:02:05 PM
Re: illegal content and copyright violations
Ok, I'm going to be a total copyrght geek here. In the U.S. the "first sale" doctrine allows you to purchase a physical recording  (or book, or work of art) and then re-sell that physical recording without additionally compensating the copyright holder. If you make a copy of, say, a track from that album for that mixtape you gave your girl/boyfriend in the 1980s, that's technically illegal. But as long as you didn't try to sell that mixtape, nobody cared much because the sound quality was so poor and it would have taken a major operation to widely distribute free copies of that tape. Not so with digital, where it's quite easy to replicate and share digital content. Among the many gray areas in the digital world is that even if you legally access a piece of music, for example, there is debate over whether you have purchased a license to listen to that material (in which case you're not protected by first sale doctrine) or whether you've actually purchased that piece of music (in which case it would be easy to make and share limtless copies of that work). Oh, and this is just in the U.S. So you can see how complex the whole matter is just from this little tip of the iceberg.
Sara Peters   The Pirates of Tokyo   11/30/2012 5:59:50 PM
Re: illegal content and copyright violations
@Dave  Sigh... well I guess I'll need to be more enthusiastic with my use of Spotify. But I really do miss my old boom box. Kids today!!!
David Wagner   The Pirates of Tokyo   11/30/2012 5:58:14 PM
Re: illegal content and copyright violations
@Sara- The "kids" today make Spotify playlists for each other instead of mixtapes. They have it so easy. :)
Sara Peters   The Pirates of Tokyo   11/30/2012 5:56:46 PM
Re: illegal content and copyright violations
@Dave  I agree. I'd rather let a few small-time pirates get away with a little bit of crime than have everyone be oppressed. I do feel like the music industry has managed to oppress us all though. I miss the days of making mix tapes for your friends -- you didn't need to worry about being called out for copyright infringement or piracy, and you didn't need to worry that your friend's stereo would refuse to play some of the songs on it because of DRM restrictions.
keveend   The Pirates of Tokyo   11/30/2012 1:58:18 PM
Re: knowing vs. unknowing
Exactly. There's no guarantee whether you will be punished even. Does all the states in the world have strong laws such as this against piracy?
keveend   The Pirates of Tokyo   11/30/2012 1:54:46 PM
Re: Pretty severe!
Do you think that the punishment should be given after considering why the content was pirated or without any consideration?
keveend   The Pirates of Tokyo   11/30/2012 1:52:51 PM
Re: Big Challenge
Is prosecution on behalf of another country possible in every case?
keveend   The Pirates of Tokyo   11/30/2012 1:49:17 PM
Re: Japanese criminal courts
I believe they will be given a fair trial and only punished if proven guilty.
Susan Nunziata   The Pirates of Tokyo   11/30/2012 1:13:16 PM
Re: Protection
@freespiritny25: and the perpetrators would have to be caught. It will be interesting to see how much manpower and resource Japan is willing to give over to investigating such violations. 
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