Making copies of DVDs and Blu-ray discs, or downloading copyrighted material could soon become sufficient reason to go to jail in Japan, if proposed legislation will be adopted.
The proposed punishment for the offences are up to Y2 million ($25,000) in fines and up to two years in prison.
Hakubun Shinomura, a Lower House member, is one of the supporters of strengthening the copyright law. “Allowing illegal downloads to exist as they do now will harm the growth of the Internet,” he said.
The proposal is however controversial, with other politicians finding it too harsh. “The illegal flow of material is a problem, but rather than strengthening the penalties, we should bolster the deletion of illegally uploaded content,” said Lower House member Takeshi Miyamoto.
In the U.S., one of the most advanced markets in terms of digital copyright, downloading illegal material is a civil offense, not criminal – meaning that offenders can be sued for damages, but can not go to prison. However, distributing copyrighted material – as opposed to downloading – can lead to criminal charges.
Downloading copyrighted material is already illegal in Japan after a 2009 amendment to the law. A lack of penalties has however taken much of the law’s weight so far.