Major Movie Studio’s Push for Internet Censorship in Japan

Major foreign movie studios are pushing Japan to implement Internet censorship. They are using every talking point in the book to make it happen.

The major movie studio’s are continuing their war on a free and open Internet as well as online free speech and innovation. This time, they are taking their censorship world tour to Japan, pushing the government to implement Internet censorship in their country. As usual, they want to block websites, but offered little verified evidence to support their cause.

In a series of bizarre statements, various representatives from the foreign movie studio’s pitched the idea of Internet censorship not as a threat to free speech, but as “essential”.

MPA chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin commented on site blocking by addressing critics. Rivkin said that all the critics are wrong about Internet censorship, saying that censorship does not lead to more data breaches. It’s unclear who is saying censorship leads to data breaches as the concerns actually revolve around free speech and due process. Nevertheless, he made his pitch anyway whether or not the pitch even made any sense at all.

“There have been some misconceptions about site blocking here and around the world that it opens people up to having their personal information breached and shared. But I want to tell you today that that that is not true. Site blocking simply does what the name suggests – it blocks illegal sites,” he said. “Give people the same protection (online) that they enjoy in the physical world.”

He went on to say that 45 countries utilize Internet censorship, suggesting that if other countries are doing it, so should Japan. What is unsurprisingly not mentioned is the end result of what happens when censorship is implemented.

Australia, for instance, is a prime example of what happens when Internet censorship is implemented. In 2015, the country implemented Internet censorship much to the shock and horror of experts and ordinary citizens. While there was plenty of outrage, the Australian government simply thumbed their nose at their own citizens and went along with the wishes of foreign corporate interests.

Many predicted that once censorship was implemented, censorship would continue to spread and increase. They didn’t have to wait long and the censors wound up going after fan subs as well.

As Internet censorship continued to spread across the country, the end result was that consumer spending crashed. Consumers did not magically go back to the record or movie store to pay for content and, instead, chose to not spend their hard-earned money on those forms of entertainment at all. Conversely, unauthorized activity skyrocketed as more and more turned to unauthorized venues to get their content.

Seeing the disaster of implementing Internet censorship, the Australian government decided to simply continue to listen to foreign corporate interests who, of course, just kept demanding more and more Internet censorship. The Australian government simply obliged and is not moving to increase Internet censorship in the country, further potentially cracking down on free speech in the process.

So, while there are a number of countries that are implementing censorship, those countries are realizing that censorship is proving to be a policy disaster. It not only does not solve anything on the copyright front, but it also exacerbates those problems as well.

Here’s some other statements noted by Variety:

Anderson – a major client of Japanese content producers – spoke from 20 years of personal experience. He said that global interest in manga and anime has never been higher. That can be witnessed from growing attendance at anime conventions and cosplay representstions of characters which have not yet been commercially exploited.

“Madman’s strategy is reduce or prevent access to pirate sites, and to provide legal opportunities (such as Madman’s own VoD platform Animelab), and to positively encourage fans to use legal sites,” he said.

Anderson said that Madman had joined with the MPA to block 77 piracy sites and that “in each case critics have been proved wrong.” “The checks and balances of a healthy legal system have ensured that (privacy is not infringed),” and that while VPNs still work, “site blocking has deterred a high proportion of casual users.” His most potent example was description of when Kissanime went offline for two weeks in 2015 for technical reasons. “Visits to our site went up by 250%,” he said. “Then we lost a lot of users when it returned. We retained some, leaving us with a meaningful increase.”

“Site blocking is essential and valuable, especially when combined with legal alternatives, and it needs to be continuous. It creates substantial additional revenue that is of benefit to distributors, and for Japanese content owners,” Anderson concluded.

Again, it is unclear who is saying that Internet censorship would violate a persons privacy. There are no metrics to show that such actions have led to people decreasing any copyright infringing activity as far as the article is concerned. What some point to is the rise of direct downloading and YouTube where such activities are barely even traceable.

In much older file-sharing environments, it was much more easier to measure how many people were downloading and roughly what volume are people downloading content. With file-sharing such as those who use open BitTorrent trackers or even more traditional networks such as Gnutella or even eDonkey2000, you could more easily measure users activities with rough guesstimations. when users turn to sites that offer direct downloads, utilize private BitTorrent trackers, or even UseNet, it’s far more difficult to measure such things. Indeed, as some people find out that it is possible to have their activities traced through open protocols, some do turn to much more difficult to trace sources.

So, not only does there appear to be no source for these statements per the article, but it is also unlikely such data really exists anymore in any meaningful way.

Some might say that it’s ridiculous to say that censorship isn’t the path forward, but there are alternative approaches that some countries have taken that have proven effective. Canada is a great example of this. In 2015, Canada implemented a notice-and-notice system. The concept was blasted by major foreign corporate interests who, at the time, were pushing another failed police: the three strikes law.

Some argued that simply notifying consumers of unauthorized activity isn’t enough and that deterrent level fines are needed to send a message. Fortunately, the Canadian government capped the fines to a really low level and kept to the notice-and-notice system. Annoyed, the major corporate interests took this as a loss and decided to wait for the next opportunity to push for extreme copyright laws.

In that time, a funny thing began to emerge. Instances of copyright infringement began to decline. In fact, it declined by so much that a representative from major foreign record labels admitted that piracy is “drifting away“. Corporations began experiencing record breaking profits or are enjoying their best year ever. Some companies are experiencing so much revenue that their throwing cash around in the form of increased dividends.

If anything, those in the entertainment industry are popping the champagne bottles as the money keeps raining down on them.

That’s not to say the system is perfect by any means. In fact, just recently, the Canadian government noticed that some shady companies were abusing the notice-and-notice regime to bilk Canadians out of thousands of dollars through “settlements”. In response, the government moved to close that loophole by explicitly saying that demanding cash or information would be illegal. Still, Canada finds itself leading the way in effective policy for non-commercial infringement and it has paid off in ways that some would find impossible.

So, that’s what makes the remarks in Japan so bizarre. It’s like some have decided that whatever the realities are for non-commercial infringement, the opposite must be true. Hopefully, for the sake of Japan, the government chooses to not move forward with Internet censorship as it has been proven to be an unmitigated disaster for countries that implemented it. Still, with politics, you never know whether or not common sense would prevail or not. All one has to do is look to the United States to know that senselessness can, in fact, take over. So, nothing can be taken for granted.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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