What are Japan’s laws on internet piracy?

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Starting in October 2012, Japan introduced criminal penalties for downloading pirated files off the internet. This new law is different from most of the other anti-piracy laws in other developed countries around the world because it criminalizes the act of downloading, rather than focusing on the party who uploaded the illegal file (although Japan has a criminal law regarding uploading as well). Violation of this new law can be punished with a 2,000,000 yen fine or up to two years in prison.

As defined under Japan’s new internet anti-piracy law, “downloading” does not including videos saved to the “cache” as you watch them streaming online. For example, even if you watch a pirated video streaming on You Tube, it would not trigger criminal penalties because the file is only being downloaded to your computer’s cache.

Japan’s new internet anti-piracy law only applies to material that is for sale. For example, downloading a drama, song or movie that is available for sale at a store (in DVD or CD form) or though some internet shopping site (such as iTunes or an On Demand service) will result in criminal liability. However, downloading material that is not for sale, such as a TV program that was broadcast on normal television but never intended for distribution through sale, would not trigger criminal penalties under this law, although there may still be civil liability in some cases. Furthermore, pictures and text are not protected so copying and pasting pictures or text will not result in criminal liability under this law (however, civil liability my still apply).

If you have any questions about internet law in Japan, please contact our office for a legal consultation.