Japanese Government Appoints Hello Kitty as Copyright Ambassador

From relatively humble beginnings way back in 1974, Hello Kitty is now one of the most popular media franchises of all time. Indeed, a report last year revealed that the cartoon character has generated an eye-watering $80 billion in sales.

Over the years, Kitty White – to cite her real name – has had her own clothing and toy lines, appeared in manga and anime, and featured in games and music. But despite being obviously busy, this week it was revealed yet more is on the horizon, this time working for the government in Japan.

According to local anti-piracy group CODA, Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs appointed Hello Kitty to the role of Copyright PR Ambassador. This week there was an inauguration ceremony during which Koichi Hagita, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, welcomed Hello Kitty to her new role.

Hello Kitty

Masaharu Ina, CODA’s Director of Overseas Copyright Protection, informs TorrentFreak that he obtained a license from Hello Kitty owner Sanrio last year, paving the way for the new career move. We asked if anyone else was considered for the position. Apparently not.

“Are you serious? No way. We could think nobody but Kitty,” he said.

“She is one of the most well-known celebrities and is loved by everybody worldwide. And she respects and takes copyright seriously. We admire her for her motto ‘Everyone in the world is my friend.’ Isn’t she lovely and perfect for telling the importance of copyright protection to the world sweetly?”

Masaharu Ina says that Hello Kitty’s role is to “be the beacon for copyright protection.” She will be looking out for those not respecting the law and if people misbehave online, they will really disappoint her.

“She would not fancy people who patronize pirate sites. We believe that the benevolent Hello Kitty should persuade people with love to buy genuine products,” Ina predicts.

At the moment Hello Kitty will be working in Japan but she could end up anywhere in future.

“I will try my best to let everybody know the importance of copyright,” Hello Kitty says, commenting on her new job for which she won’t get paid.

“We heard that she volunteered for this honorary job because she really respects copyright,” Ina says. “Although she may not mind having some apple pie and tea in a peaceful afternoon.”

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.


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Manga Anti-Piracy Campaign Hopes Artists Can Persuade Fans Ahead of New Law

Earlier this month, Japan’s parliament passed new copyright amendments that will ban the unlicensed downloading of manga, magazines and academic texts from the Internet.

Those illegally downloading publications will face a sentence of up to two years in prison or a maximum fine of two million yen (US$18,620). Under local law, these penalties are already available for movies and music content.

The new anti-downloading law will come into effect on January 1, 2021, but ahead of this big change the Japanese government, publishers, and anti-piracy group CODA are hoping to persuade fans to take a new direction with a campaign supported by well-known manga artists.

Manga-Anime Guardians Project

Every Friday the ‘Manga-Anime Guardians Project’ (MAGP) will release four brand new manga comics, each telling stories about manga piracy. The ultimate aim is to put freeloading consumers back on the track to legal consumption before a more damaging response is authorized under law.

The first batch of manga, featuring artists including Akira Akatsuki, Adachitoka, Rie Arai, and Ammitsu, has just been released. Produced in the distinctive manga style, it’s hoped that the monochrome cartoons, which are available in both Japanese and English, will hit the right note with consumers.

manga frame

Masaharu Ina, CODA’s Director of Overseas Copyright Protection, informs TorrentFreak that the aim is for the campaign to enjoy a global reach while helping to nudge fans currently not parting with their money in a direction more profitable for the industry.

“The target audience is manga readers/lovers, especially innocent readers who unknowingly read manga on pirate sites like Mangamura,” he says.

“We would like to educate and guide them to the right channel. And with the English versions as well as the Chinese versions coming up, we expect to reach out to the audience around the globe.”

According to CODA, the now-shuttered pirate site Mangamura caused around $2.91 billion in damages to the local manga industry. In July 2019, alleged operator Romi Hoshino was apprehended in the Philippines and later arrested by Japanese authorities during a deportation flight.

While Hoshino awaits his fate, it’s hoped that the new anti-piracy campaign, which is supported by the government’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, will steer people away from pirate platforms. The major publishers behind the campaign, including the likes of Shueisha, Kodansha, Shogakukan, and Kadokawa, are already known for targeting unlicensed content providers (1,2) through the courts.

Start Buying Now or Pay Later

However, in addition to pursuing their own cases, the publishers involved in this project are also vocal supporters of the somewhat draconian laws set to come into force next year. Masaharu Ina confirms that this campaign is all about raising public awareness before the gentle carrot of choice becomes a pretty big stick next January.

“[Y]ou are absolutely right in assuming that this campaign coincides with the revision to the Copyright Act which passed the [Japanese parliament] on 5th June,” he says.

“Our intention is to fully utilize this timing to help boost awareness for the importance of copyright protection.”

In total, 16 pieces of manga will be released as part of the campaign, with a message designed “to warn of the dangers of piracy and to promote the legitimate distribution of manga/animation.”

The next four, featuring contributions by Hiromu Shinozuka and Kazutoshi Soyama, among others, will be released this Friday on CODA’s website and Instagram channel.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.


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Japan Passes New Copyright Law to Criminalize Manga Piracy & Linking Sites

Eight years ago, Japan passed legislation that made it illegal to download unlicensed movies and music from the Internet.

The move to criminalize this activity with a prison sentence of up to two years received a general welcome from copyright holders. However, rightsholders offering other types of content felt left out. Ever since they’ve called for the law to be expanded to include manga (local comics) and other literary works.

Fines and Prison Sentences For Downloaders

This week and after years of work, their goals were achieved. Japan’s parliament passed new copyright amendments Friday that ban the unlicensed downloading of manga, magazines and academic texts from the Internet, in line with the previously outlawed media categories.

In common with the penalties already available for movies and music, those illegally downloading publications from the Internet now face a theoretical sentence of two years in prison or a fine of up to two million yen (US$18,300).

The new downloading law will come into effect on January 1, 2021, but there will be some exceptions.

Those who download a small section of a manga publication or a handful of pages from a larger book, for example, will not face prosecution. After protests over the strict nature of an early draft of the law, people who accidentally include copyrighted works in screenshots will also avoid breaking the law.

New Criminal Penalties For ‘Leech Site’ Operators

Other amendments passed Friday including the outlawing of so-called “leech” sites. Outside Japan, these are often called indexing or linking sites since they host no copyrighted content themselves but link to external platforms or users that do. These have previously proven a thorn in the side of local copyright holders who previously claimed that around 200 were operating with impunity in the country.

As of October 1, 2020, however, site operators or those publishing apps that have the same function will face the harshest sentences available under the law. Such offenses will carry a sentence of up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of five million yen (US$45,760), or in some cases, both.

New Legislation Overcame Significant Hurdles to Become Law

In early 2019, the Cultural Affairs Agency proposed an expansion of the law to cover all copyrighted content but things didn’t go smoothly. Opponents argued that the proposed legislation was too tight and could even meet the private copying of images with a prison sentence.

Due to these and similar fears, the amendments were eventually shelved. This led to the production of an amended bill that received approval in March.

Passed by parliament this week, the government says that the amendments represent a fair yet effective compromise.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.


Japanese Government Approves New Bill to Criminalize Manga Piracy

Since 2012, downloading unlicensed music and movies from the Internet in Japan has been prohibited under the country’s Copyright Act and in theory punishable by up to two years in prison.

Limitations of the law meant that downloading manga and other literary works wasn’t covered by the legislation, something which drew the ire of the publishing sector. In response, early last year the Cultural Affairs Agency proposed an expansion of the law to cover all copyrighted content but things didn’t go smoothly.

Due to the breadth of the proposals, some feared that even private copying of images, for example, could be rendered illegal and punishable by a potential prison sentence. In an abrupt turnaround, however, the planned copyright amendments were shelved by the government after being rattled by protests over the implications.

After months of deliberations, the government has just approved a new bill that aims to address the concerns of copyright holders and those averse to the more draconian aspects of the original proposals.

The draft legislation criminalizes the downloading of unlicensed manga, magazines and academic publications from the Internet. The penalties will be brought into line for those already in place for music and movies with a maximum two-year prison sentence and/or a fine of two million yen (US$19,118). The most severe penalties will be reserved for egregious and repeat offenders.

In a step back from earlier proposals, Internet users will be allowed to download some image-based and academic content for limited private use in order not to stifle the flow of information and education, provided that activity does not impact copyright holders. Where the precise boundaries lie is currently unclear, however.

The government has provided some examples, such as the use of a single frame from a much larger manga publication or saving a single image from a social media site that was uploaded without permission. In the near future, to clear up any uncertainty, it will offer advisories to the public to ensure that people understand what they can and can’t do with copyrighted content to keep within the new law.

“We struck the right balance between securing effective measures against piracy and avoiding people from being discouraged in efforts to collect information,” Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Koichi Hagiuda told a press conference, as per Mainichi.

One aspect that is perfectly clear is the outlawing of so-called “leech” sites. These platforms, known in the West as linking or indexing sites, do not carry any copyrighted content themselves but provide hyperlinks to infringing material hosted elsewhere.

Operating such a service in Japan will become punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of five million yen (US$47,780). The latest estimates suggest that there may be up 200 of these “leech” sites in the country, a figure the government is hoping to reduce.

The new copyright legislation regarding the downloading of literary works is expected to come into force on January 1, 2021. However, operators of linking sites will have less time to adjust, with the new penalties applying from October 1, 2020.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.