Japan Toughens Up Copyright Law

TOKYO — Japan has toughened up its copyright law, making it illegal for users to download material that has not been uploaded with the permission of rights holders.

The Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) lobbied for the amendment to existing legislation, which was passed by the country's parliament.

The changes, which go into effect on Jan. 1, 2010, do not prescribe specific fines or jail time for violations. Also, those accused must be proven to have known the files downloaded were uploaded illegally.

"We are thankful to those concerned who supported this [statute]. Our organization will continue its work to stop all copyright infringement and will make our best effort to inform the public of the changes to the law," said RIAJ CEO Kei Ishizaka, according to Billboard.

Internet user groups and associations opposed to such laws claim they make it illegal for a user to copy legally purchased files for personal use only. TechDirt points to a recent Japanese ruling which found that users who upload music they already own — for use as, say, ringtones or just as a backup file — are violating copyright law, even if no one else has access to that paid-for music. And any company owning a server for such online storage, even though it's for personal use only, is guilty of copyright infringement.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the amended copyright law in Japan, its government will also seek to work with China in combating copyright infringement and piracy, online and with regard to hard-copy CDs and DVDs, reports AFP. The first round of talks are planned for later this year.