Japan-based Internet users who have downloaded copyright infringing files over the past two years did so without penalty. Now, however, a new law has come into effect for the downloading of illegal files which would put guilty users in jail for up to two years. An alternative to the aforementioned punishment would be a fine of up to two million yen ($25,700).
The law follows a lobbying campaign by the country's music industry, the Recording Industry Association of Japan. They suggested illegal media downloads clearly outnumber legal downloads by about a factor of 10.
Critics, however, said the effort should be concentrated towards stopping users from making infringing material available. Users who are caught illegally uploading infringing music and videos face a maximum 10 year prison sentence and a 10 million yen fine.
Sales figures place Japan as the second-largest music market in the world, after the U.S. A 2010 study found that Internet users downloaded around 4.36 billion illegally pirated music and video files. Comparatively, 440 million legal purchases were made during the same year.
"This revision will reduce the spread of copyright infringement activities on the internet," said RIAJ chairman Naoki Kitagawa, who also operates as a chief executive of Sony Music Entertainment Japan.
"Treating personal activities with criminal punishments must be done very cautiously, and the property damage caused by individual illegal downloads by private individuals is highly insignificant," the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, a group representing legal professionals, stated.