Home > Focus on Japan 2008 > Japan to Take Measures that Will Make the RIAA Green with Envy

Japan to Take Measures that Will Make the RIAA Green with Envy

March 17th, 2008

While the details still seem a bit fuzzy, Japan seems poised to deliver a huge blow to file-sharing taking place here:

The nation’s four Internet provider organizations have agreed to forcibly cut the Internet connection of users found to repeatedly use Winny and other file-sharing programs to illegally copy gaming software and music, it was learned Friday.

The move aims to deal with the rise in illegal copying of music, gaming software and images that has resulted in huge infringements on the rights of copyright holders.

Resorting to cutting off the Internet connection of copyright violators has been considered before but never resorted to over fears the practice might involve violations of privacy rights and the freedom of use of telecommunications.

The Internet provider organizations have, however, judged it possible to disconnect specific users from the Internet or cancel provider contracts with them if they are identified as particularly flagrant transgressors in cooperation with copyright-related organizations, according to sources. …

According to the new agreement, copyright organizations would notify providers of Internet protocol addresses used by those who repeatedly make copies illegally, using special detection software. The providers would then send warning e-mails to the users based on the IP addresses of the computers used to connect to the Internet. If contacted users did not then stop their illegal copying, the providers would temporarily disconnect them from the Internet for a specified period of time or cancel their service-provision contracts.

The details given seem strangely incomplete. For example, the article only mentions cutting off people who download “music, gaming software and images”; the music and gaming software were mentioned repeatedly throughout the article, and no mention was made to television shows, movies, or any other kind of computer software. Was that simply a narrow focus chosen by the writer of the article, or are specific industries behind this move?

That narrow focus might indicate a desire to protect primarily Japanese copyright holders–since the most-copied Japanese-owned content is music and gaming software. If this is the case, then the crackdown might be similarly focused. They do mention that the interested parties are “copyright organizations including the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers and the Association of Copyright for Computer Software.” Of course, it might be that this story was leaked by that organization, thus explaining the narrow focus.

However, the question then becomes, “how do they know what’s being shared?” Will they really go to so much trouble to discriminate? Or will they simply detect the signature of a particular type of file-sharing software, or scrutinize accounts which carry a large amount of traffic?

Another confusing sentence in the story is, “They will then begin making guidelines for disconnecting users from the Internet who leak illegally copied material onto the Net.” “Leak?” So, downloading is okay, but uploading is not? The article also notes that “particularly flagrant transgressors” will be the ones shut down.

The article is also vague on what file-sharing software will and will not be monitored for. All of it? The article mentions Winny predominantly, because (unlike the U.S., where Bittorrent is now widely used) Winny is one of the most often-used file sharing programs in Japan.

In one manner, the cooperation by Japanese ISPs makes a lot of sense: file sharers tend to use more bandwidth than most people. Shutting them down, or even discouraging them, could clear up a lot of bandwidth. They might be able to save some money down the road because of this kind of thing. It is hard to see another reason why the ISPs would be so willing to rat out their own customers in favor of, and to the profit of, a third party.

Also, they did note that 1.75 million people used the software; how many people in their customer base are they willing to cut off? Will they be satisfied with simply shutting down a few users, but enough to scare most other people into cutting down on file sharing? Or perhaps, for the ISPs, this will simply be a way of weeding out the less-profitable customers for their service.

Then there is the privacy consideration. In what way have they circumvented that problem, in a way which they were unable to do a few years ago? Are they sure that the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, which shut them down two years ago, won’t tell them to cut it out again?

In a country where copyright violation is practiced flagrantly (music & video rental stores sell blank CDs and DVDs right up at the checkout counter), this is a bit of a surprising development. Having read accounts of this in western publications, I see some wondering what legal challenges there will be. If this is actually carried out and if the government doesn’t tell them to stop, then I presume the answer to that will be, “not many.” Japan is not known for that sort of thing, not too much anyway.

It will be interesting to monitor this story and see where it goes.

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  1. Jan Strnad
    March 18th, 2008 at 11:34 | #1

    This is all so futile!

    Back when VCRs first appeared, I received a warning letter from CBS telling me to stop recording their programs. It was good for a laugh. So is this measure to stop internet piracy.

    Now, I OWN intellectual property and, sure, I’d like everyone who downloads it to buy it. But the genie is out of the bottle. Perfect digital copies can be made with virtually no effort. We have to adjust our systems to acknowledge the modern reality.

    How? I don’t know! But offhand, it seems to me that if content is readily available in digital format AT A REASONABLE PRICE, people tend by-and-large to buy it. Somehow they are able to understand the concept that creative content requires people to support it financially, or it goes away.

    The entire distribution process is being streamlined as creators…authors, musicians, whatever…find it increasingly easy to reach their audience directly. At the same time, delivery of the content costs literally pennies. So, it’s possible for the audience to pay a very nominal fee and for the creators of content to make as much as they made under the old system, which means that they can continue to create and the public can continue to consume and the whole shebang can WORK.

    The loss is to the middlemen, and I have some thoughts about that, too, but this is enough for now.

    Thanks for sharing the item about what Japan is doing or considering. I think it’s futile, but we’ll see.


  2. March 21st, 2008 at 18:53 | #2

    I too live in japan and have been an avid “collector” of “transferable media” for more than a decade. Here’s my two yen which is worth more then two cents:
    I just returned from a large book retailer and counted more then a dozen different magazines with subtle titles like DOWNLOAD, BITTORRENT, and “without price games”. therefore i can only imagine the retribution will be weak at best. only uploaders will be punished from p2p clients like winny, limewire, kazaa, etc type programs where there is a direct downloader and direct uploader. so the software used must be software that enables the downloader to see the uploaders IP and not the otherway around. so bittorrent people will be safe, i will enjoy my massive download speeds never available in the US and continue to download ONLY legal content offered on vuze and pay for itunes stuff. also many idols in japan get their starts from downloading… therefore why would they stop when downloading idol’s content only leads to purchasing more and more and more. and going to concerts, and events, and t-shirts, and cell phone charms and… u get it lol.
    there is my two cents

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