TOKYO - Japan will make it illegal to download without permission of copyright holders all works including manga, computer games and literary writings, as a government panel adopted the policy on Wednesday.
In a report to the Cultural Affairs Agency, the panel called for broadening the scope of illegal downloads, currently restricted to videos and music, to all copyrighted materials. However, to what extent the actions will be punished was open for future discussions as concerns grew over restraints on internet users.
The report also proposed punishing operators of "leech sites" that list hyperlinks to piracy websites.
The agency plans to submit a bill to amend the copyright law and reflect tighter controls to the ongoing regular Diet session.
The panel indicated the need to crack down on piracy websites as damage to copyright holders has been on the rise. But it sought a cautious approach in penalizing unauthorized downloads in view of adverse effects on people's lives and freedom of expression.
A panel member has suggested some images such as those containing texts are sometimes collected as part of intellectual activities. Another member said it is difficult to discern the difference between legal and illegal contents available online.
The report said only serious offenses should be punished, such as copying the whole work and repeating illegal downloads.
It recommended that violators should face imprisonment of up to two years or a fine of up to 2 million yen ($18,100) or both, and perpetrators could be indicted only if criminal complaints are filed by victims.
As for leech sites, the paper called for making it a criminal offense to operate the websites and provide hyperlinks to pirated materials.
Damage caused to publishers by a Japanese piracy site called Mangamura, which became inaccessible last April, was estimated at about 300 billion yen. The website, which once had over 100 million hits a month, hosted unauthorized copies of popular manga titles, including "Attack on Titan" and "One Piece."