Japan Expands Copyright Law to Protect Manga from Piracy… Partially

According to reports coming out of Japan, the Agency for Cultural Affairs, a special body set up to promote Japanese arts and culture by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, is seeking to criminalize downloading copyrighted still images.

The agency is seeking to set jail sentences of up to two years for infringers as well as a maximum two million yen fine, equivalent to about seventeen thousand US dollars.

While Japan’s Copyright Act forbids the illegal downloading of music and movies, it fails to extend that protection for still images, which includes the country’s popular manga material.

Now, according to Japanese daily The Mainichi, “the Agency for Cultural Affairs intends to make punishable the downloading of still images of manga comics or pictures knowing they have been pirated, according to people knowledgeable about the plan.”

It’s Still Ok to Read Pirated Content Online

What’s weird about the story is that, according to the same Daily, only downloading will be illegal and punishable, “but just watching those still images on piracy sites without downloading them would not be deemed illegal.”

The changes are being incorporated into a draft revision of the Copyright Act by a panel of the copyright subcommittee of the Council for Cultural Affairs, an advisory body to the chief of the cultural agency, before being made available for public comments later this month.

The report also notes one particular website, Haruka Yumeno Ato, a major leech site that directed users to websites posting pirated materials, to demonstrate the damages incurred from piracy. The website was shut down in October of last year, “but the damage caused by such sites is said to have amounted to 73.1 billion yen during the past year, and is growing,” the report states.