Japan eyes changes to copyright law


TOKYO -- Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs on Wednesday will propose amending the nation's copyright law to give rights holders the right to take action against anyone who downloads their content without obtaining permission.

At present, it is legal to download content from the Internet for private use. With the popularity of Web sites that provide illegal downloads showing no signs of abating in Japan, the government panel is proposing legal changes to ban the practice, although rights' groups here say any new law will need teeth to be effective.

Identifying and prosecuting a person who has illegally downloaded content will be the responsibility of the copyright holder, however, and the panel is not planning to set its own sanctions under the law.

"Our monitoring team is finding that it is an enormous task to find illegal downloads and, while we believe this is a step in the right direction to halting illegal copying through the Internet, there are still some problems for us to overcome," said Satoshi Watanabe, head of the transmission rights division of the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers.

JASRAC is an umbrella organization for 24 Japanese companies and associations, including the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan and the Recording Industry Association of Japan.

"There should be punishments, or we will not be able to effectively stop these sorts of activities," Watanabe said. "We need to find out who is downloading illegal content, prove the case against them and punish them, because if we fail to do that then we're just talking," he said.

JASRAC has been holding infrequent talks with YouTube and its parent Google in an effort to stop the wave of movies and music being illegally submitted to the site.

YouTube has posted warnings about copyright violations on the site and deleted thousands of clips. It also is working on "fingerprint technology" that will not allow certain images to be uploaded, though some in Japan have questioned whether any of the measures will be effective.