(Nikkei: February 17, 2016 – p.28)
Unlike in the United States, copyright infringement in Japan is a shinkokuzai, a category of offence that cannot be prosecuted without a complaint by the victim. Offenders face penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines of as much as 10 million yen. Persons who upload copyrighted material without permission onto the Internet face serious penalties.
Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement, lawsuits can be filed in Japan against copyright infringement without a complaint by the victim. Many in Japan were initially concerned about the impact on doujinshi (the Japanese term for self-published works, usually magazines, manga, or novels). “Many comic artists are delighted to see parodies by their fans, and the next generation of cartoonists will come from doujinshi,” said Ken Akamatsu, a manga artist. His view is that under the TPP agreement, if sales of self-published works, which are permitted tacitly by copyright holders, are controlled, this will have a negative impact on the entire manga culture.
House of Councillors member Taro Yamada visited South Korea, which has strengthened its copyright protection by concluding a free trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S. Yamada said: “In South Korea, moves by people other than copyright holders to threaten minors who have violated copyright by threatening to inform the police of their violations have become a social problem.”
However, as a result of efforts by the Japanese government, the definition of copyright infringement under the TPP trade pact is limited to “intentional commercial use” and usage that “prevents rightful claimants from securing benefits in markets.” The Japanese government has clearly given consideration to domestic derivative works.
In a paper titled “Copyright, End of ‘Horror Story,'” University of Tokyo Prof. Katsuya Tamai writes that “concern (over derivative works) has been dispelled.” Attention will be focused on how minor copyright violations other than those for derivative works will be handled.