It is not uncommon for a country to adopt a successful policy from its neighbors. China has the Great Firewall, and now Japan seems to be interested in a similar practice of restricting websites. Their government made a quiet move that could spell the end of YouTube in Japan after an incident where one of Japan's most famous terrorists was arrested, and it became major news in the country. This new change in the law could herald a crackdown on criminality, for piracy in Japan has always been treated in a fairly lax manner. There seems to be little concern about piracy within Japan, and now the country seems to be aiming to show a change.
Already, people probably know exactly what terrorist was arrested at around the same time as the change in the law was adopted. He is, of course, Katsuya Takahashi, the last Aum Shinrikyo member involved in the March 20th, 1995 sarin gas attack to have still been at large. Two of his accomplices had been free as early as December 2011, though Takahashi had managed to stay under the radar right up until now. The sarin gas attack of 1995 killed thirteen people and injured 13,000, making it the worst domestic attack for the Japanese in the country's history. Takahashi was arrested in the city of Tokyo recently, though his alliance to Aum Shinrikyo no longer seems as strong.
More famous Western coverage in the aftermath of the sarin gas attacks
Aum Shinrikyo is listed as a terrorist organisation in several countries, and the name is translated to 'Supreme Truth'. They are a cult focused on their religious agenda and spreading it with as much force as possible. Takahashi was one of several people responsible for the group's most famous deed, though his role was not as a killer. Instead, he acted to help one of the killers escape from the subway where they had committed their deed. As you'd expect from an insane cult relying on killing others to spread their 'supreme truth', Aum Shinrikyo's history features targeting of Freemasons, Jews, and other Japanese religious followings. It's a textbook dangerous cult of the common or garden variety, yet the legacy of its most severe action seems to be coming in the form of targeting internet media.
This story provides the backdrop for the change in Japanese law. While it may appear wholly unrelated, for a terrorist attack to change laws involving piracy and copyright, Takahashi's capture has been a main feature in most media. This has meant that the change in law has gone largely unnoticed, and it has not been made clear to the public. For this reason many people simply may not be aware of the change. The new law changes things that may be of surprise, for Japanese culture has never been particularly harsh about piracy. Even so, the changes are relatively basic, and common throughout the world, so it could be surprising to see them suddenly implemented.
The main facets of the new law being brought in under the frenzy surrounding the arrest can be broken down as following:
1. Ripping and copying of copy-protected and encoded materials like DVDs and games is no longer considered "for personal use" and is punishable.
2. The sale of software and hardware that circumvents copy protection and access protections is forbidden.
3. The intentional download of illegally uploaded materials is now punishable.
It all sounds logical enough, though there are thoughts that sites such as YouTube could be among those blocked since it can download media files to your computer temporarily. The specific wording also leaves it open for interpretation, for it does not specifically target Japan alone. It is aimed towards Japanese citizens, so there's even a small chance of Japanese-Americans being trialled for this, in the absolute most extreme case scenario. When the government is beginning to take things like this seriously, it's good for the producers of the media being pirated, though it always manages to sound extremely threatening for the rest of us.