Japan cracking down on mobile piracy

About 407 million tracks illegally downloaded in 2008

TOKYO -- The Japanese government will work with music industry bodies like the Recording Industry Association of Japan to attempt to create a new system to prevent mobile phone users from illegally downloading music.

The Japanese government's Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry established a working group in April to address the problem and they have worked with the RIAJ to develop ideas that would be effective in fighting illegal downloads to mobile phones, which are becoming more widespread.

"We collaborated with the Ministry and developed a proposal that they have decided to pursue," RIAJ spokesperson Yoichiro Hata said.

Sales of digital music in Japan were worth a record high of ¥91 billion ($987 million) in 2008, according to the RIAJ, but the organization also estimates that a total of 407 million tracks were illegally downloaded to mobile phones the same year. This is up from a total of 399 million in 2007, according to the RIAJ.

The next phase of action begins Sept. 16 when the Ministry, along with RIAJ and other interested parties such as mobile providers, will create a council to hammer out details of the plan to battle the illegal activity.

"We will move towards creating a consensus among the council on the plan to combat illegal downloading, which could be in place by April, 2010," Hata said.

The proposal the Ministry has set forth is based on tracking song information. When a user downloads a music file, tracking information will be sent from the cell phone to a computer server, which will analyze it. The server then judges whether the music file was distributed illegally and, if so, a warning will be sent to the cell phone.

If a pattern of illegal downloads is established for that handset, the server will either make it impossible for the handset to download music or render it incapable of playing the music after it has been downloaded.