Japan has declared copyright infringement a criminal offense, according to a report by TechDirt. The move comes as a boon to the Japanese manga industry, which generates billions of dollars in revenue every year.
The change makes Japanese copyright law very similar to that of the United States and other Western countries.
A small but meaningful change — Japan’s copyright laws have long been similar to the variety U.S. citizens are familiar with — except that infringement has always been considered a civil matter, handled directly between the person in question and the organization that owns the property. Now piracy and other copyright infringements have been changed to a criminal offense.
This covers leech sites, too — The new copyright law doesn’t just cover individuals who download content illegally; it also casts its eye toward those who run “leech” sites that create indexes of illegal downloads. Even just linking to infringing content is now considered a criminal offense in the country, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of 5 million yen (about $47,000).
This goes back to Japan’s constitution — Copyright infringement has long been left out of Japan’s criminal classification because doing so was seen as censorship under the country’s constitution. Censorship, according to Japan’s constitution, is only allowable if it presents an immediate danger to “the life, body, liberty, or property of oneself or any other person.” It seems the Japanese government now considers copyright infringement a very real threat to its citizens and their property.