In the year since revisions to copyright law in Japan made illegal downloading a crime punishable with jail time and heavy fines, the music industry hasn’t experienced a significant increase in profits. In fact, police have yet to prosecute anyone for the crime! It kind of make you wonder if they know that Internet pirates don’t have peg-legs and eye patches…

Japan officially started prosecuting music, movie, and software pirates in October 2012. Well, we say “started prosecuting,” but in reality, no one has actually been sentenced or caught by the police under this law, so maybe “started threatening to officially prosecute” would be the better word choice.

Either way, the law seems to have had some effect–the number of people using “Winny” and “Share,” once-popular Japanese programs used to illegally download files, has decreased by 40 percent. Even so, CD sales from January to August are still lower than last year–by seven percent. This is after sales had risen by five percent over the period from October 2012 to June 2013 in comparison to October 2011 to June 2012. In other words, sales went up briefly and then went even further back down.

▼ “Avast, ye maties, all my plunder for a proper bathroom and some Enya!


What this might mean is that there doesn’t seem to be a 100 percent direct link between pirates and declines in CD sales. However, according to the Recording Industry Association of Japan, it looks like digital album sales have increased by nearly 50 percent over the same period. This seems to fit with comments made by the RIAJ’s managing director Kenji Takasugi, who told NHK News, “The revised law has been effective in increasing the amount of rentals, but it seems unconnected to the number of people who are paying to actually buy music. While we are continuing public education regarding illegal downloading, we are working to improve sales by creating good music and improving the ease of use of music services.”

We can’t help wondering if they should also ask Tsutaya, one of the largest CD and DVD chains in Japan, to stop selling CD-Rs at the counter.

▼ “Oh, this? I’m going to, um, save a lot of family photos from my computer tonight.”


Japanese netizens naturally had quite a bit to say on the topic.

I wonder if they really think the cause of the problem is illegal downloading.

Stuff that sells will actually, you know, sell!

There’s soooo many people who get music from iTunes. I wonder why they haven’t realized that illegal downloading isn’t the only cause.

Just how many people even listen to CDs?? Unless CD players become popular again, there’s nothing they can do.

It’s simply that the number of other forms of entertainment besides music are increasing.

The problem is the music itself.

Well, people who are going to download music wouldn’t buy it in the first place!

Music isn’t even necessary to begin with. Thinking you need music is just brainwashing.

Wouldn’t it be better to regulate CD rentals??

Obviously this is a hot topic with a lot of push-back from the Internet, and not just in Japan. The debate rages about the economic repercussions of illegal downloading and how to deal with it the world over, with international attention currently focused on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its potential effects on copyright laws.

As to how much pirated music has actually hurt the music industry is hard to judge, since illegal activities tend to be difficult to quantify. Still, we wonder if lowering prices from 3,000 yen (roughly US$30) per album wouldn’t help in Japan at least…

Sources: RIAJ, NHK, Jin115
Image sources: Wikipedia (CD, music, pirates)