The act of downloading manga and novels that have been posted on the internet without legitimate permission violates the rights of their copyright holders and can undermine publishing culture. Every effort should be made to contain the damage from this kind of deed.
The revised Copyright Law has been enacted to impose stricter measures against pirate websites.
The scope of the download restrictions, previously limited to music and images, will be expanded to cover copyrighted materials in general, including manga, novels and research papers. In principle, it will be illegal to download materials if users know that they are pirated versions. Criminal penalties will also be imposed on malicious conduct such as downloading pirated content persistently.
However, exemptions are established for cases such as downloading small amounts of content. These exceptions are designed to keep from intimidating internet users and to avoid violating the people’s right to know.
Creative activities remain possible only when authors and publishers receive fair compensation for their works. Many users visit pirate websites without being fully aware of this fact.
It is necessary for the government to promote the purpose of the law’s revision and encourage the public to understand that downloading pirated materials is an illegal act for which they can be liable to pay compensation and subject to criminal punishment.
The revised law also includes regulations on so-called leech sites, which lead internet users to pirate websites, because many get access to pirated works via these sites.
The regulations have only covered pirate sites so far, but their scope will expand to leech sites and their viewers. It is hoped that the government and the police will use all relevant laws and ordinances to crack down on illegal sites.
It is said that hundreds of pirate sites are running on the internet at any given time, attracting tens of millions of users every month. In particular, manga, which is also popular overseas, is suffering serious damage.
A Chinese pirate website, whose operator was arrested in autumn last year, reportedly had 400,000 users, mostly viewing manga content. The website was cracked down on after a Japanese publisher — which had spent a huge sum of money on surveillance and taken several years to figure out how it operated — reported it to Chinese authorities.
It is difficult to identify pirate websites and leech sites because they often use overseas servers. Damage from these sites can grow more severe while authorities take time for a probe. Investigation authorities are also urged to beef up cooperation with overseas organizations.
The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry is considering a scheme to make it easier for internet providers to disclose information about the operators of illegal websites. If realized, this scheme will make it easier for those suffering damage from these sites to file a claim, but there are many issues surrounding the plan.
Despite generally sluggish business in the publishing industry, the market for e-books grew more than 20% last year. The growth was achieved as more and more people use official sites now, partly due to the closure of Mangamura, a pirate website whose illicit activities prompted the revision of the law.
It is important to share the importance of publishing culture and protect it throughout society.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 6, 2020.