Written by Flamecaster, edited by Otaku Apologist
In response to the Japanese government proposing new laws, that would force ISPs to block all sites that provide anime and manga illegally, Japan’s equivalent to YouTube, NicoNico Douga, has issued a quick and important survey to all of its users. In the questionnaire, the video media giant asked its users if they would be in favor of the government taking steps to stamp out access to piracy websites.
89,154 individuals responded to the survey and the results were released the same day; the first question asked was “Regarding overseas sites that infringe upon copyright, are you in favor of blocking access to them, or against blocking access to them?” – 52.7% of voters agreed to blocking access, 19% did not agree and 28.2% didn’t know.
The 2nd question that voters were tasked with answering was “Do you agree or disagree in allowing the government to shut down such sites in an emergency whilst a legislative system is made at the same time?” – 47.8% were in favor of such an act, whilst 18.2% were not and 34% didn’t know.
“Do you think that internet providers should cooperate in blocking access to pirate sites?” was the final question, resulting in 55% agreeing, 15.3% disagreeing and 29.7% being unsure.
Japan’s Content Overseas Distribution Association claims sales of digital comics had enjoyed uninterrupted growth since 2012, only to actually drop in late 2017 due to a spike in the popularity of piracy sites. The losses were finally estimated at 4 billion dollars of lost sales.
While NicoNico Douga’s survey surely isn’t widely reflective of the populace’s general opinion on this hot topic issue, it’s still safe to assume that publishers have been moving fast to stop their alleged lost sales from happening again.
There is currently no clear legal basis for the government to issue site-blocking requests, while there are worries that the requests could be pointed out as an infringement on Article 21 of the Constitution, which states, “No censorship shall be maintained, nor shall the secrecy of any means of communication be violated.” The government plans to ask for internet providers’ understanding based on the thinking that, as the pirate content websites harm publishers and authors, the site-blocking requests are acceptable under the “averting present danger” principle of Japan’s Penal Code.
Meanwhile, the government is also set to consider a new law to combat “leech sites”, or websites that aggregate links to others that host pirated content. It is thought that many visitors to pirated content sites get there via leech sites. However, under present law, just posting a link is not considered a copyright violation.
Furthermore, even if internet providers cooperate with the government to block direct access to pirated content sites, it may be possible to reach them via the leech sites. A “leech site prevention law” would aim to close that route to pirated content, though there is a danger this could violate the constitutional right to freedom of expression. With that risk in mind, the government plans to carefully consider the content and applicability of any new legislation on the problem.