It’s easy to shorthand Japan as “Crazy Japan,” mainly because it’s fairly accurate most of the time. But every so often Glorious Nippon severely tests that “Glorious” part, and prove the characterization spot-on. This is one of those times.
Japan’s government has just passed a law that would outlaw the act of “ripping” copyrighted material of any kind to users’ computers, and the knowing downloading of such material from any internet source. Naturally, this is targeted towards folks who record TV shows and DVDs/Blu-rays for sharing, archiving, and of course piracy. That part of the law is a good thing. Punishment ranges from hefty fines to jail time. The law goes into effect this October.
But wait, there’s more.
The broad, vague wording of the law opens the potential to prosecute users with the temerity to view copyrighted material on such innocuous sites as Youtube, because those sites upload data to users’ computers. And it potentially covers international viewers of Japanese copyrighted material. What’s more, analysts suggest that the law could be used to suppress material that the government finds uncomfortable.
This bears all the hallmarks of a law written by fearful companies and legislators who would rather destroy that which they don’t understand and can’t adapt to. Of course, natural challenges over enforcement, scope and freedom of speech will rise up, but truthfully, it doesn’t seem really feasible that the Japanese public will muster the kind of intense resistance that Americans raised over SOPA and PIPA.
Prove me wrong, Japan. Prove me wrong.