A quick pointer to a Japan Times article about some of the issues mentioned in my last entry. Chris Salzberg, of Global Voices and Gyaku.jp fame, was so nice to include a quote from a recent conversation we had about this issue :-)
The problem, however, is that everything on the Web is downloaded. Just to view a page, a browser must store its contents on the user’s computer. Since it is impossible to know beforehand whether downloaded content is legal or not, any page view would, under the proposed revision, place the user at risk of violating copyright law.
Andreas Bovens, a Tokyo-based Belgian who blogs on copyright issues in Japan at chosaq.net, sees a danger in this situation.
“It seems like the main targets of this proposed new legislation are Web sites offering unauthorized chaku-uta (ring tone) or music downloads,” he says. “The message they seem to want to bring across is that downloading from those sites is illegal.
“However, although the scope of this legislation seems small, its effect is huge. It affects basically everything that we do on the Net.”
The Private Music and Video Recording Subcommittee (私的録音録画小委員会) of Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs is pushing for a revision of Article 30 of the copyright law, which will outlaw downloading illegal copies of content. Under the current legislation, only uploading such copies is forbidden (earlier chosaq coverage).
The rationale behind this move is the same pro-regulation argument Japan’s content industry has been repeating over and over again. From a recent Nikkei BP article:
In the meeting, Hidetoshi Haeno, senior director of the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ), and Naotaka Katyou, a member of the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan Inc, strongly supported the reexamination by saying the following comments.
“The business of record companies is stuck in a dead end. It’s spine-chilling.” “When a movie is uploaded to a video-sharing Website, they applaud it. They look like the people who acclaim Nezumi Kozou (a heroic thief like Robin Hood), but filmmakers are not evil governors or unscrupulous merchants.”
Also, Reijirou Koroku, the chairperson of the Japan Federation of Authors and Composers Associations (FCA), said, “In view of all the copyrights, they do not have enough protection yet. Right holders [have] been too silent until now.”
Several people have raised questions regarding this disturbing development. Ikeda Nobuo, for instance, has suggested that the RIAJ should substantiate its claim that filesharing is hurting the music industry more than it can benefit from it with actual data. He also points out that the proposed legislation will have an “atrophying effect” on society (translated quote taken from a Global Voices article):
It seems that, hearing of the “outlawing of downloads”, corporations fussy about compliance will block access to [services such as] YouTube from the office. As new business markets atrophy, new businesses will then also stop appearing.
Other commenters have pointed out issues with the “download” terminology: “[A] user cannot determine whether a file is illegal before they actually download it, and even once the file is downloaded, such identification remains difficult.” In addition, there is unclarity about whether the proposed legislation only targets “downloading” or also includes “streaming.”
Another problematic issue is the idea to give “legal” sites a “mark” indicating they are OK. The reverse effect of issuing such a mark is that all sites without mark are considered to be “illegal.” More in this ITMedia article.
My personal take on these developments… When I attended a public discussion on filesharing at the Ministry of Culture a couple of years ago, I remember certain committee members suggesting to outlaw not only illegal content uploads, but include downloads too—at the time, this proposal met quite a bit of resistance from other members in the committee (also see this 2005 ITMedia article). In the meantime, YouTube and other content publishing sites have bloomed and have further undermined the established players’ control—therefor, the content industry’s call to regulate these sites more has become louder and of course, Japan’s broken and industry-serving governmental institutions are listening to it…