Disproportionate penalties for copyright violations have reached new heights in Japan with the passage of a new bill this month that will make downloading copyrighted material punishable by imprisonment or fines. Previously, imprisonment was possible for uploading files, but this bill expands the penalty to downloaders as well. The bill will go into effect on October 1.
This is not the only recent law to criminalize copyright infringement. Canada’s House of Commons has passed a copyright bill that penalizes circumvention of digital rights management as well as imposes fines on copyright violations. The bill is expected to pass the Senate. Artists in Hong Kong are also resisting an amendment to criminalize copyright infringement beyond “beyond minor economic damage” in a manner eliminates fair use for the creation of derivative works. A French law called HADOPI instituted in 2009 requires Internet Service Providers (ISP) to sever a user’s Internet connection after downloading copyrighted content three times, a law which United Nations Special Rapporteur Frank la Rue called “a violation of article 19” on the right to free expression of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In Europe, due to civil society pressure, governments are increasingly attentive to how copyright enforcement affects human rights and free expression. For this reason, the European Union’s (EU) International Trade Committee recommended that the European Parliament reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which seeks multinational standards for intellectual property rights. This is the fifth EU committee to vote against the agreement. The European Parliament is expected to vote on the agreement on July 4.
Click here to read the rest of the report’s global roundup on the global struggle for freedom and control of the Internet.