Japan Enforces A New Music Piracy Law: How will this affect civil liberties in America?

The Japanese government passed a new law recently that will be sending music pirates to jail. Before this sweeping legislation only music up loaders were subject to sentencing, but now the prosecutorial scope has expanded, firmly placing down loaders at risk. 

This marks the creation of one of the most austere anti-file sharing regimes ever to come into effect.  As of October 1st authorities are able to arrest and charge people for illegally downloading copyrighted content.

Under the scope of the new law someone who is merely viewing a Youtube video containing illegally achieved copyrighted material could be sentenced.  The severity of the sentence is expected to range from two-years maximum to probation, or a penalty equivalent to that of child abduction.

Torrentfreak, a blog devoted to reporting news involving file sharing, referred to the new law as, “One of the most draconian in the world.”  As a blog that promotes friendly file sharing, Torrentfreak believes that the punishment is far too severe for the crime in question.

Music rights groups, such as the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ), have even developed a monitoring system capable of immediately detecting unauthorized music uploads before other Internet users can download them.

According to Naoki Kitagawa, the RIAJ’s chair and the Chief Executive of Sony Music Entertainment Japan, these new regulations will, “Reduce the spread of copyright infringement activities on the Internet.”  As one of the lead victims, Sony has reported shocking stats about the trouble music piracy is causing for the industry.

The download market has drop 16 percent over the past year.  This means that only 1 of 10 downloads is legal. If the trend continues it will affect content.  Artists will become unable or unwilling to create and market music that is so vulnerable to piracy.  As in most business models, product and profit are at the heart of the matter.

Down loaders are not happy with the law revision.  An international collective, known for hacking government and corporate websites, named Anonymous, took action when the law was discussed in July.

Members donned Guy Fawkes masks and picked up garbage in Tokyo in order to raise awareness of the law.  Guy Fawkes masks traditionally represent anarchy and the attempted overthrow of government rulings.

To show further protest a subgroup of Anonymous known as “Ghost Shell” hacked into the websites of five major Japanese Universities once the law was enacted.  Confidential data of students and faculty members was compromised in the attack.

During an interview with a nameless Anonymous hacker, the reason behind the attack was verified.  “We’re trying to fight for free rights.  The Internet is a free market and people can use it in whatever way they wish.  Having such harsh penalties for such a miniscule crime is ridiculous. These new laws will result in unnecessary prison sentences.”

Anonymous also stated on their website that they believe the new law would lead to the surveillance of Internet user activity in a free society, and do little to solve the issues behind copyright infringement.  This means the new law will encourage further rights violations while prosecuting citizens for diminutive crimes.

The movement of Anonymous and Ghost Shell are difficult to track, as they do not have a home base.  “Anonymous has never been known to back down from a fight,” said Hironori Kanazawa, the Vice Minister of Defense in Japan.  In the eyes of government officials Anonymous and Ghost Shell are taking civil liberties into their own hands in a highly destructive manner.

Eighteen arrests have been made in Japan since the law has been put into effect.  So far none of those arrested have been found to be heavy up loaders.

With the evolution of new piracy laws taking over the industry, American download pirates were sure to be affected.  Although back in January the American government did not pass the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), music industries are trying a new approach to combat music piracy.  They are pushing for the government to take a six-strike approach.

Under this act, users will be warned of their wrongdoings and told of potential penalties five times before they are prosecuted.  Music industries believe this will eventually stop piracy altogether.

“Under the eyes of the law, downloading a piece of music from one of these file-sharing sites without authorization is no different than walking into a store and stealing a physical good,” says Rob D’Ovidio, associate professor of criminal justice at Drexel University.

The industries assume that knowing someone is watching online activity will serve as a deterrent to music pirates.  This approach may fair better than SOPA because it is not a zero-tolerance type.  Internet Service Providers (ISPs) plan to work with the customer and show them how and why illegal downloading is wrong.

Initially, D’Ovidio says, the ISPs, “Are not going to cut the user off; they’re going to put them through steps of educational tutorials that they’ll have to go through online.  The Internet Service Providers don’t want to lose customers; at the same time, they do have a responsibility.”

Pirates who were informed of this potential law change were not happy.  “Artists already make more than enough money for their music.  I don’t understand why they have to be so greedy.  We live in a free society so for them to monitor my computer activity is invasive and unnecessary,” said Connor Lynch, frequent music pirate.

Whether this law will be allowed to pass and how it will affect American music pirates is yet to be decided, but for now music piracy in America will continue.

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