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Editorial: Protect publishing culture from illegal sites with appropriate regulations

  • March 12, 2020
  • , The Japan News , 12:49 p.m.
  • English Press

Websites that offer pirated versions of comics and other books in electronic form on the internet without permission harm the publishing culture and cannot be overlooked.


The government has submitted a bill to revise the Copyright Law to the current Diet session as part of efforts to combat piracy websites.


The bill is designed to expand the scope of restrictions on illegal downloading of copyrighted works, which has been limited to music and images, to all such materials, including comics, novels and essays.


Essentially, there should be no difference in the value of protecting music and images from books and other copyrighted materials. Considering the current situation in which many copyrighted materials have been harmed by piracy websites, the direction of the law’s revision can be said to be appropriate.


There are persistent concerns that restrictions on the downloading of copyrighted materials could shrink internet use and hinder the right to know. In response to such concerns, the government decided not to enact a revision of the law last spring.


Under the revision bill this time, even if a person knows that they are pirated versions, minor cases such as downloading a few frames of a comic book that has dozens of pages, or copyrighted materials that happen to appear within images saved on smartphones or other such devices, will not be subject to the restrictions.


Criminal punishment will be applicable to nefarious acts of repeated and continuous downloading of pirated versions of copyrighted materials for which legitimate versions require a fee.


This suggests that the government has put a certain limit on excessive regulations so as not to violate the right to know.


It is essential to inform internet users of the purpose of the law’s revision and the line between legal and illegal acts, and to sound an alarm about the facile use of pirated versions. Creative activities of authors and publishers become possible only when they receive fair compensation for their works. It is also necessary to expand understanding of this point.


The law’s revision also calls for criminal penalties for website operators and others involved in the operation of “leech sites” that guide users to websites hosting pirated content. This is because many users browse for and download copyrighted materials via leech sites.


Leech sites often use overseas servers. In order to make the regulations effective, investigative and other authorities need to strengthen their monitoring in cooperation with overseas organizations.


There are usually more than a few hundred piracy websites, and the top 10 sites are used by a total of 65 million people a month, according to a survey. In addition to legal regulations, it is necessary to use various measures to contain these piracy websites.


The government and related industries should work together to take countermeasures such as making thorough efforts to stop the display of advertisements that generate revenue for piracy and leech websites, and preventing these websites from appearing in search results.


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