Global smackdown against cyber piracy now includes Japan

Japanese ISPs agree to cut off connections of users found illegally copying gaming software and music files.

Add Japan to the ranks of countries cracking down on illegal file sharing over the Internet. The Yomiuri Shimbun is reporting that the country's four Internet providers agreed to disconnect Internet connections "of users found to repeatedly use Winny and other file-sharing programs to illegally copy gaming software and music."

The four organizations include the Telecom Service Association and the Telecommunications Carriers Association. About 1,000 major and smaller domestic providers belong to the four associations, which means the measure would become the first countermeasure against Winny-using rights-violators used by the whole provider industry.

They organizations plan to launch a consultative panel, possibly in April, together with copyright organizations including the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers and the Association of Copyright for Computer Software. They will then begin making guidelines for disconnecting users from the Internet who leak illegally copied material onto the Net.

The number of users of file-sharing software such as Winny in the country is estimated to be about 1.75 million, with most of the files exchanged using the software believed to be illegal copies.

A brief six-hour survey by a copyright organization monitoring the Internet found about 3.55 million examples of illegally copied gaming software, worth about 9.5 billion yen at regular software prices, and 610,000 examples of illegally copied music files, worth 440 million yen, that could be freely downloaded into personal computers using such software, the sources said. In other words, this survey alone, uncovered damages amounting to 10 billion yen.

Two years ago, a major Internet provider tried to introduce a measure to disconnect users from the Internet whenever the company detected the use of Winny or other file-sharing software.

Can't say that this comes as a shock. The reaction against illegal file sharing, which began in the United States, has spread to Europe, and now, Asia. Chalk it up to a super-effective lobbying effort by well-organized copyright interests representing software companies, music labels, and the film industry.

Will this hold up in court? I don't know much about Japanese civil law so if anyone out there has more information, I'd love to hear more. On the surface--and admittedly, I don't have more facts other than the initial wire report--this sounds like a classic overreaction. But that's been the main theme in the conflict between the establishment and new technology threatening to undermine its business model.