Black Friday

19 people arrested in Japan over unauthorized file-sharing

Pete Zaborszky

Pete Zaborszky

March 5, 2014

In what seems to be becoming an annual event, Japanese police raided 123 locations across the country between Feb 25-27. This resulted in 19 arrests, with an additional 14 members of the public facing various charges relating to alleged copyright infringement. As a by-product, 90 innocent people’s homes were violated in the attempt to find the identity of the 33 accused. Those arrested face up to two years imprisonment, or a fine of up to 2 million yen ($25,680). If found guilty, even those involved on a small scale are subject to the same penalty.

At almost the same time last year, Japanese police arrested 27 people during a similar sweep. It has been suggested that this was as a public display of strength aimed at giving traction to the new copyright legislation of 2012. In addition to the two larger sweeps, smaller sweeps have been conducted and further arrests made.

Among the arrests made to date was a man who uploaded English teaching materials, a man who uploaded word processing software, a man who uploaded some music, three men who uploaded video games, a man who streamed a video, and a man who uploaded a video clip.

The legislation has led to a large amount of public discussion about what seem to be universal themes in the debate over file sharing. The argument is primarily in relation to pricing, distribution methods and the media industry’s overall inability to adapt to both the changing economy, and to consumer consumption habits. How the actual ethical nature of how file sharing itself should even be perceived also continues to be discussed.

Furthermore, recent statistics indicated that, although unauthorized file-sharing in Japan is starting to wane, sales in the media industry are not rising, which strongly suggests that the problem does not lie in criminality, but elsewhere.

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