The latest government pushing through controversial copyright legislation is in Japan, where a bill that aims to tackle online piracy of music and films has been passed. It enables sentences of up to two years in jail and up to ¥2m (around $25k) for downloading infringing content, sitting alongside existing laws punishing the uploading of such content with up to 10 years in prison and ¥10m fines.

Good news for rightsholders, who have been campaigning for stiffer piracy penalties. The controversy comes from wording in the bill suggesting that people must be aware of the illegality of what they download. Meanwhile, a separate row has broken out over reports that music industry body RIAJ wants ISPs to monitor activity on their networks and squash uploads of infringing content, while disconnecting repeat offenders.

As ever, much of the coverage of the legislation is polarised – for example claims that people could be thrown in jail for watching unlicensed YouTube videos, when there’s no evidence to show that’s on the cards. A more sensible concern, though, is of the new laws being seen as “criminalising an entire generation” (i.e. young people).

Having done very well from the ringtones boom, the onus is now on the Japanese music industry to foster a new generation of music services that will appeal to young consumers, rather than just relying on the stick of prison sentences and fines.

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