Japan's Parliament has added teeth to a law originally passed in 2010 to assess stiff penalties to illegal downloaders: Those found with pirated music or movie files could face up to two years in prison and a fine of 2 million yen ($24,995).
A bill to amend the copyright law passed the Upper House of the Parliament on Wednesday. It had previously passed the Lower House. The 2010 modification of the same law rendered downloading pirated contents illegal but did not assess penalties.
The new law will take effect on October 1. Rights-holders will have to file a complaint for offenders to be prosecuted.
Naoki Kitagawa, the Chairman of the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) welcomed the harsher measures. He noted that RIAJ will mount informational campaigns to educate consumers on the new law. He added, "We hope that this law will reduce copyright infringement on the Internet…and further creative activity for new music and video."
According to RIAJ, approximately 4.36 billion music files were pirated in 2010, leading to ¥668.3 billion in lost revenue.
The previous Chairman of RIAJ, Keiichi Ishizaka, now the CEO of Warner Music Japan, had spoken numerous times about aggressively pursuing copyright violators and this law can be seen as the result of his efforts, at least to some extent. Ishizaka left the Chairmanship last year.
The revision to the law was not without its critics however. The Parliament called IT journalist Daisuke Tsuda as an expert witness and he cautioned that the law could impede the general public's access to information and interfere with promoting Japan's creative industries in the long-term. He urged the government to crackdown on those illegally uploading files instead.
Currently those who upload files without rights-holders consent face 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 10 million yen ($124,700).