• Kyodo

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The government on Tuesday approved a bill to expand the nation’s anti-online piracy law to encompass manga, magazines and academic texts.

The current law only applies to the illicit downloading of music and videos. But following the revision of the copyright law, which the government aims to implement by Jan. 1 next year, those found guilty of illegally accessing the newly added materials will face the same criminal charges.

The new bill includes some exceptions that allow downloading of copyrighted content after earlier-proposed changes drew fire.

Penalties for repeat offenders could include jail sentences of up to two years or a maximum ¥2 million ($19,400) fine, or both.

The government aims to have the bill passed in the ongoing regular parliamentary session, while a rule to make illegal “leech websites,” which provide users with links to download so-called torrent files of pirated materials, will take effect Oct. 1. Those found to be operating a leech website will face penalties of up to five years in jail or a maximum ¥5 million fine, or both.

The government tried to submit a similar bill to a parliamentary session last year but deferred after receiving a backlash from manga artists and experts who said its planned controls were too broad and could lead to restraints on internet use and freedom of expression.

The revised proposal exempts “minor offenses” and “special instances” which do not impair the interests of copyright owners.

The Cultural Affairs Agency listed example cases such as downloads that are “limited to one frame from a ten plus page manga” and “saving a post about a poster advertising an event that was put on a social networking site without permission.”

Furthermore, downloading fan fiction works and taking screenshots of noncopyrighted images will not be illegal.

“We struck the right balance between securing effective measures against piracy and avoiding people from being discouraged in efforts to collect information,” technology minister Koichi Hagiuda told a news conference.

Hagiuda expressed his intention to inform the public about the revision and ensure they understand what it means for their internet use.

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