The lucrative, multi-billion manga industry of Japan has received enhanced legal protection from the country’s parliament, which on Friday adopted a law that criminalizes copyright infringement of manga content by adding it to the list that already covers music and videos.
According to reports, only one massive pirate manga site, Mangamura, supposedly cost this industry $2.7 billion in lost revenues. Though, that’s only assuming that all of those who pirated content would have otherwise paid for it – something that’s unlikely.
The Japan Times writes that this legislation has been revised from the original, that was slammed by manga artists themselves, as well as other advocates, as so wide-reaching and aggressive that it would have harmed legitimate activities like research, and also free expression and internet usage in general.
Besides manga comics and graphic novels, this iteration of the law also covers magazines and academic texts, and targets sites containing pirated content, or those known as “leech” sites – scripts hosted on servers that turn links into direct links to locations where a file is hosted.
Those found to be operating such sites will be sent to jail for up to five years and/or be ordered to pay a fine of some $45,000.
For users downloading pirated manga content, the fines and jailtime can go up to about $18,000 and two years.
The enacted version of the law provides some exceptions that were included after the originally envisaged legislation came under heavy criticism. Thus, internet users will not be prosecuted for downloading a few frames from a comic book that is several dozen pages long – or for downloading “a couple of pages from a novel containing several hundred pages.”
And if you accidentally capture copyrighted manga content in a screenshot – Japan won’t send you to jail or force you to pay money penalties. Thanks.
The report says that there are currently over 500 manga piracy sites that boast about 65 million hits each month – and the hope of legislators and rights holders is that the new law will stifle this scene.
But, however restrictive and broad it may be, the legislation still leaves room for circumvention. For one thing, it doesn’t cover streaming sites or videos provided in the picture-story format, since that doesn’t require downloading any content.
And then there’s secure offshore hosting that makes it very difficult for the authorities to obtain disclosure of information.