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Japan introduces tough new copyright law

A new Japanese copyright law that criminalizes illegal downloads of music and video files came in effect on Monday. The revised law [materials, in Japanese] now imposes penalties [BBC report] of two years in prison and fines of up to two million yen (USD $25,627) upon those who illegally download copyrighted files. The law was revised in June with the purpose of protecting copyrights by preventing illegal downloads. Before the revision, the copyright law punished only those who illegally uploaded copyrighted materials with up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to 10 million yen (USD $128,139). The Recording Industry Association of Japan [advocacy website] had advocated for the revision arguing that illegal downloads of copyrighted files have detrimental effect on the country's music industry outnumbering legal downloads by a factor of 10. Critics argued that the new law increases the risk of abuse by authorities who will be allowed to target any Internet user.

Copyright infringement is an international concern. Last month the National Assembly of Panama [official website, in Spanish] approved a controversial new copyright law [JURIST report] that allows authorities to fine infringers without a trial or civil lawsuit. The law allows the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to impose fines of up to $100,000 on individuals who are found to be in unlawful possession of copyrighted materials. In June two of the founders of the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay (TPB) filed appeals [JURIST report] in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website], challenging their convictions for copyright violations in a Swedish court after the Swedish Supreme Court [official website] refused to hear [JURIST report] their appeal earlier this year. In November of last year the Swedish Svea Appeals Court [materials] upheld [JURIST report] the convictions of TPB founders. In April 2009 the website operators were sentenced to one year in prison for abetting copyright infringement [JURIST report]. In June 2009 several Hollywood production companies filed suit [JURIST report] in Sweden against the operators of TPB, seeking an injunction.

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