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.
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