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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 February 20 - 26  > Gov’t plan to expand scope of illegal downloading arouses concern about possible ban on derivative works
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2019 February 20 - 26 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Gov’t plan to expand scope of illegal downloading arouses concern about possible ban on derivative works

February 21, 2019

The Prime Minister Abe-led government intends to submit to the current Diet session a bill to revise the Copyright Act which would regulate derivative works under the name of preventing internet piracy. This has aroused concern and opposition from manga artists and anime fans.

The Copyright Act was revised in 2012 under which those who download movies and music while recognizing that these are pirated editions or illegally uploaded are punished. Under the proposed revision, the government seeks to extend the scope of illegal downloading to all forms of content products which include still images.

In everyday life, people save news articles, illustrations, literary works, and other downloadable products on their computers for the purpose of research and creative activities. It is difficult to find out whether these products infringe on the copyright of others. Experts criticized the government proposal to amend the Copyright Act for possibly limiting people’s freedom of expression beyond the scope of countermeasures against online piracy. Furthermore, there is increasing concern that the proposed amendment would affect cultural industries, including the anime and manga industry, in which acts of rearranging, combining, and remixing the existing works to create a new work play a role.

On February 8, a rally to exchange views on the government move took place in the Dietmembers’ office building in Tokyo. The event was organized by civil groups working on issues regarding the freedom of expression.

Japan’s well-known manga artist, Takemiya Keiko, who heads the Japan Society for Studies in Cartoons and Comics (JSSCC), attended the rally and expressed her concern that the government proposal would prohibit digital downloads for creative remixes, mash-ups, and spin-offs. JSSCC has expressed its opposition to the government plan to expand the scope of illegal downloading. The manga industry puts much weight on derivative works as the derivative works arena plays an important role in training amateur manga artists and increasing the number of manga fans.

In addition, on February 19, 87 researchers and lawyers familiar with copyright piracy published an urgent statement in regard to the planned revision of the Copyright Act, calling for thorough Diet deliberation on this issue.

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