In their “Intellectual Property Strategic Program 2008”, the Japanese government proposes measures for curbing the unauthorised online sharing and distribution of anime and manga, in what could very well turn out to be an assault on fansubbing and the sharing of anime and other Japanese cultural products.
The most relevant item the Secretariat of Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters proposes:
Going Forward on the Elimination of Infringing Contents from Overseas Movie Sharing Sites
So as to remove the infringing contents which pose an impediment to our nation’s content businesses, in 2008 we plan to implement measures to enhance online distribution of contents and facilitate the elimination of infringing contents. In 2008 we aim for the introduction of a framework in which Japanese IP holders can more easily make demands for the removal of infringing content, as well as the introduction of technical measures facilitating such, aimed against certain countries.
There are also some other items which do not mention online distribution specifically, but do mention unspecified Asian countries, so these can be assumed to be polite plans to dissuade China from pirating everything.
The plan also has several other elements; most notably for the planners, they are looking to implement an EU style protected designation of origin system, where Japanese products will gain exclusive legal rights to use the name of their place of origin. This follows on from plenty of liberal Chinese use of place Japanese names in purely Chinese products, as well as complaints over the use of various foodstuff names in the US and elsewhere.
More interestingly, they also call for action against P2P file sharing, though I doubt a year has gone by in which they have not, so this may be unimportant.
The full “Intellectual Property Strategic Program 2008” can be read in Japanese here, and English translations of earlier reports are also available. The plan came to my attention here, though that source lacks much in the way of details.
The plan proposes activity which seems somewhat ambiguous; usually I would tend to assume that moves against anime piracy are targeted more against Chinese pirate DVDs and the like (several of the measure specifically mention “Asia”), but the explicit mention of file sharing and unauthorised online movie distribution overseas, along with plenty of acknowledgement of how anime is Japan’s leading cultural export, doesn’t support that interpretation.
They also do not make any mention of P2P versus YouTube style sharing, so it is hard to know if they are looking at both or not.
It should also be noted that the 2007 report barely mentions piracy and doesn’t mention online distribution at all, concentrating on protecting plant varieties and other interesting topics, so it does appear this is not just a yearly repetition of a call for action against piracy, but a potentially concerted effort.
It does appear Japan (or at least a mishmash of ministries) is looking to put in place the international legal infrastructure to facilitate a crackdown, so the issue really becomes one of implementation – can we expect a tacit acknowledgement of the enormously positive influence fansubs and other unauthorised distribution has on anime’s popularity, and so only very limited action against it as has been the case in the past? Or will they push for an indiscriminate crackdown?