Tokyo Film Festival: Piracy in Japan Is "Getting Worse," MPA Finds

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Chris Dodd

"The challenge of online piracy, which is rampant everywhere, including Japan, is a serious problem," MPAA chair Chris Dodd tells a seminar, with the Tokyo fest's boss saying figures for the country are "quite shocking."

Growing piracy in Japan and the fight against it were in the spotlight at the Tokyo International Film Festival on Friday as the Motion Picture Association presented latest research and best practices for protecting intellectual property.

"The challenge of online piracy, which is rampant everywhere, including Japan, is a serious problem for all of us," MPAA chairman Chris Dodd said in his opening remarks at the 7th MPA seminar at the festival.

"While the challenges remain pressing," he said that "we’re witnessing here in Japan highly constructive coalitions," emphasizing that collaboration is the key to success in the fight against piracy. 

Tokyo festival director Takeo Hisamatsu followed Dodd, saying that piracy figures for Japan are "quite shocking." He emphasized that online piracy in Japan is a problem, even if some people may still think that "it is not a big issue."

During the first half of 2017, an average of 15.2 million unique users from Japan per month accessed sites or apps used for online piracy via desktops, the audience of the MPA seminar heard during a look at the country's piracy landscape. An average of 24 percent of Japanese internet users a month accessed sites or apps used for online piracy via desktops, with 74 percent of them accessing web-based sites, such as link sites and cyber lockers, and 26 percent using P2P download sites.  

All that means that "piracy in Japan is getting worse," a slide prepared for the seminar concluded. Page views for the top five pirate sites in Japan amount to more than 368 million — that is 2.46 times higher than the 149 million-plus views for the top five legitimate sites, led by Netflix's 78.8 million, the MPA also said. 

Marc Fuoti, who serves as president and representative director of Big Picture International and sits on the MPA advisory board, in his briefing about the piracy data that his firm has compiled in recent years said that there is a perception that Japanese consumers, known to be among the most honest in the world, are not pirating much. But in the online world, "what we find is quite dramatic," he said. "Piracy is increasing."

He said that historically, Japanese consumers were "low consumers of pirated copies of DVDs and other hard goods. We are finding, however, that what goes on in somebody's home and computer is quite different." Referring to the figure of 24 percent of Japanese internet users accessing pirate sites, he highlighted: "This number is lower than in most other developed countries, but it is still shockingly high."

He also highlighted that manga and anime, key Japanese content exports, are among the most pirated types of content in the world. He cited one estimate that 7.7 billion total visits to unlicensed anime video sites were registered globally in 2015, excluding visits from Japan and China, among others.

Takayuki Sumida, secretary-general at the Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters at Japan's Cabinet Office, said that the Japanese government has been "quite aggressive for many years" in battling piracy, but he also said that technological advances in the digital age continue to make it easier for people to access pirated material. He suggested that Japan needs to strengthen its anti-piracy initiatives and said that site blocking and domain seizure should be considered.

Watching movies is a joy for people all over the world, but the entertainment industry must also ensure "a proper return on investment," he said. Echoing Dodd, he emphasized that "international cooperation will [ensure] ... that infringement doesn't pay." He said the government is looking for collaboration between various ministries to more effectively battle piracy. 

Oct. 30, 5:30 a.m. Updated with corrected comments on site blocking and domain seizures.