Student Voices: Penalties for Downloading Illegal Content

In the fall of 2012, Japan introduced new piracy penalties for illegal downloads. From this law, downloading copyrighted material on the Internet is now a crime and users caught face up to two years in prison or fines up to two million yen (about 25,700 US dollars). Since 2010, downloading copyrighted material on the Internet has been illegal but until now, it had not invoked penalties.

The question that arises from this new legal change is who should take responsibility for the illegal use of copyrighted material on the Internet? Should users themselves responsibility, or should downloaders? Are service providers who allowed that information to be available on the Internet liable? Presently, it is the users that are being punished but those people who uploaded these videos and other data onto the Internet wanted it to be seen and shared—one of the great advantages of the Internet—are not addressed. They do not believe they are doing anything wrong but think that they are rather just using the Internet for the reason that it was made. On the other hand, service providers also do not think that they should be responsible. Service Providers, like Google, say that their business model will not work if they have to constantly monitor things that people are putting up everyday. Sites and data on the Internet is increased everyday by extreme amounts and it is understandable how search engines and service providers would not be able to catch up with the growth of the Internet.

This leaves the people who are already presently being held responsible: the viewers. However, in the viewer’s defense, countless numbers of people are downloading from the Internet everyday. You could ask a university class full of students and 90% of them would admit to downloading something from the Internet in the last week. The amount of uploads and downloads everyday is enormous and the data that is accessible on the Internet is overwhelming. When new punishments can be enforced after a user is found to have copied a single pirated file, the great percentage of the young Japanese population would be labeled criminals. Even the industry admits that an estimated 4.36 billion music files was downloaded in 2010, and these sales show Japan as the world’s second-largest music industry after the United States.

Studying and researching this topic, it is understandable how the government decided to target viewers to punish for downloading illegal content from the Internet. If they knowingly do download things from the Internet, there is no one to blame but themselves. Internet service providers cannot check every minute of everyday for new sites that have illegal downloading content. However, in my opinion, it is not only the viewers who should be punished but also the uploaders of the illegal content. All over the Internet, there are pop ups, advertisements and hidden buttons to trick you into downloading content. If the uploaders had no intention of tricking you into downloading their material, why would they bother with these advertisements? Therefore, it is completely understandable if someone downloaded content without meaning to. Accidently pressing a button or clicking on an advertisement could automatically start a download and therefore, I believe that most people on the Internet have either downloaded content from the Internet unknowingly. In my opinion, the question is how the authorities will differentiate between these kinds of individuals and those who have chosen to willfully break the law.