Great Infrastructure, But Only Limited Content on the Internet in Japan

Squished into an overpacked train in the morning, I would have expected to see at least a few inconsiderate people who would spread their newspapers, just five years ago. Now, people have their smartphones or tablets; people with bulky newspapers became a rarity. It is safe to say that our lives have changed drastically with the advancement in technology, and will continue to change. In order to further encourage this trend, the government has compiled a Strategic Plan for where Japan in the ICT area.

The 112 page document included a variety of different aspects that have and will improve our lives in many way But I feel that the most controversial part of the plan was in the proposals for the next generation broadcast and communication services. The goal of eventually having 4K and 8K broadcasts and smart TV services seems “cool”; new technology is always exciting. Moreover, I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to witness the transformation from the invention of touch screens, to motion sensor consoles like the Kinect, and eventually to virtual games like the Occulus Rift. We are moving towards an age where the movie theater experience can be brought back to your home screen. Most content can be accessed anywhere you wish, as long as you have Internet connection.

Yet, the recommendation in the report that deployment of such new broadcast technology would help Japan to more competitive globally made me question where Japan is heading. Japan may have great infrastructure, but is it really able to compete in the global market for content? While the quality of the image on the screen will most likely enhance the user experience, the fact is that it is likely that foreign content will be viewed more often than domestic on these shiny new screens. Foreign content producers are so much more creative than Japanese producers. In other advanced countries, the Internet and television are becoming closely connect so that content on one platform could appear on the other. YouTube has played a large part in this, encouraging users to create content which at times end up showing on the big screen.

But in Japan, the availability of domestic Japanese content on the Internet is paradoxically extremely limited. The reasons is that the regulatory measures that protect content in Japan are preventing growth on the Internet. For example, in Japan, the record companies have chosen to invest large sums of money to prevent copyright infringement. As a result, only snippets of songs can be found on the Internet, if you can find any at all. This contrasts to the music industry in English speaking countries where the Internet is overflowing with unique and original musical content.

This situation is not limited to music. It is true for most other creative content from apps too movies to television. It is important that we have a safe and innovative way of providing content to the people and I would rather see a movie in 8K than on the TV in in my grandparent’s attic. But I feel that the government should shift its focus to promoting the availability of interesting content on the Internet rather than simply focusing on how content is delivered.

Mariko Kiya

Mariko Kiya

Faculty of Law
Keio University
Mariko is a member of Faculty of Law at Keio University.
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