National

Criminal crackdown urged on illegal image downloads from manga, novels and other works

Kyodo

Japan will aim to tighten its grip on copyright enforcement after a government panel on Friday called for making it a crime to download still images from manga, novels and other literary works without permission.

The panel’s final report to the Cultural Affairs Agency pointed to the need to crack down on piracy websites and urged the government to consider broadening the scope of punishable acts — now restricted to unauthorized downloads of videos and music — to all materials, including images.

It concluded violators should face up to two years in prison, a fine of up to ¥2 million, or both.

The agency is expected to submit a bill to amend the copyrights law and impose tighter controls to the Diet session that begins on Monday.

The government is expected to target not just websites, but also blogs and social networking services that use pirated materials.

The report also called for punishing operators of “leech sites” that provide hyperlinks to piracy sites. The government is expected to propose new punishments later.

Some experts have voiced concern about broadening the restrictions as it could affect many people. There are far more images than videos and music, and determining how they were obtained would be difficult.

On Friday, a panel member suggested a more cautious approach, saying some images, such as those with text, are sometimes collected as part of intellectual activities.

Some experts say the government is avoiding detailed discussions about what types of downloads to regulate in an apparent effort to expedite and finalize the new rules.

Damage caused by the Japanese piracy site Mangamura, which was blocked last April, is estimated at about ¥300 billion. The site, which once got over 100 million hits a month, hosted unauthorized copies of popular comic book titles, including “Attack on Titan” and “One Piece.”

The government took an emergency step last April by urging internet service providers to block access to three piracy sites including Mangamura. It was the first case of its kind that didn’t apply to child pornography.

It initially sought to legislate the blocking of websites hosting pirated content but gave up after opponents said it could be too invasive and require subscribers’ access data.