News Navigator: What counts as an illegal download in Japan?
The Mainichi answers some common questions readers may have about the legality of downloading media from the Internet in Japan.
Question: There are so many songs, movies, amine works and other digital media on the Internet. How can I tell which ones are legal?
Answer: The Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) says that an "L-Mark" (L for legal) will be displayed on sites that have partnered with record companies to provide music over the Internet, allowing users to confirm which sites are legitimate. However, that still leaves an ocean of digital content the legality of which is hard to gauge.
Q: After a proposed amendment to tighten the digital piracy law goes into effect, could a user be subject to legal action for downloading what might be unlicensed copies of music or movies?
A: The proposed amendment states specifically that users "knowingly" downloading pirated content are subject to punishment. However, confirming whether a user knew for certain that they were downloading something pirated looks to be a tough proposition.
Q: What if a user downloaded music from a site that may be illegitimate?
A: The downloader could be subject to legal action if they knew the music on the site was being provided illegally.
Q: What about sites based on user content like YouTube? Is it illegal to view pirated content that was uploaded by someone else?
A: There is no punishment for just watching pirated material. A user doesn't actually save music or movies that are streamed on YouTube, so it's not considered an illegal download. On the other hand, if a person uses special software to actually save the music or video on their computer, that would be subject to legal action.
Q: Are there foreign countries that prosecute people for illegal downloading?
A: According to research by the National Diet Library, the United States, Germany, France and a number of other nations do punish illegal downloaders. The punishments, however, differ from country to country. In France, for example, a downloader will be publicly exposed by investigators if the downloader had been issued two warnings by a third-party institution and confirmed their action was illegal.
Q: Are there any countries where downloading pirated material is not a crime?
A: According to U.S. lawyer and international patent law expert Iwao Kidokoro, countries including the Netherlands and Switzerland do not criminalize downloading over freedom of speech concerns.
In any event, it's important not to let pirated media into the wild, wide-open spaces of the Internet in the first place. However, it's also essential not to excessively restrict or narrow the Internet user experience. The task now is to find the right balance between these concerns. (Answers by Ken Aoshima, City News Department)
May 24, 2012(Mainichi Japan)