Article 43

 

Friday, December 28, 2007

Japan Polices Their Internet

Regulating The Japanese Cyberspace, One Step At A Time

By shioyama
Gyaku
December 27, 2007

With little fanfare from local or foreign media, the Japanese government made major moves this month toward legislating extensive regulation over online communication and information exchange within its national borders. In a series of little-publicized meetings attracting minimal mainstream coverage, two distinct government ministries, that of Internal Affairs and Communications (SOMUSHO) and that of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MONBUKAGAKUSHO), pushed ahead with regulation in three major areas of online communication: web content, mobile phone access, and file sharing.

On December 6th, in a FINAL REPORT compiled by a study group under the Somusho following up on an INTERIM REPORT drafted earlier this year, the government set down plans to regulate online content through unification of existing laws such as the BROADCAST LAW and the TELECOMMUNICATIONS BUSINESS LAW. The planned regulation targets all web content, including online variants of traditional media such as newspaper articles and television broadcasting, while additionally going as far as to cover user-generated content such as blogs and webpages under the vaguely-defined category of “open communication”.

Only days following the release of the Dec. 6 report, again through the Somusho, the government on Dec. 10th requested that mobile phone companies NTT DOCOMO, KDDI, SOFTBANK and WILLCOM commence strictly filtering web content to mobile phones for users under the age of 18. The move to filter content in this area comes at a time when the Japanese market has become saturated with mobile phones, a growing proportion of which are held by high-school and even grade-school students. The proposed policy, in part responding to fears and anxieties expressed by parents about online dating sites, is broad in scope and reportedly covers all websites with forum, chat, and social networking functionality.

Regulation of a third area of online communication, that of online file sharing, was meanwhile advanced through the Private Music and Video Recording Subcommittee of Japan’s AGENCY FOR CULTURAL AFFAIRS (under the Mobukagakusho) in a meeting held on December 18th. Authorities and organizations pushed in this case for a ban on the download of copyrighted content for personal use, a category of file transfer previously permitted under Article 30 of JAPAN’S COPYRIGHT LAW.

The final report on Internet regulation released on December 6th, and the meetings about mobile phone regulation and copyright policy held on December 10th and 18th, collectively touch on nearly every aspect of modern network communication in Japan and together indicate a significant shift in government policy vis-a-vis the Japanese cyberspace. While granted little attention in mainstream media, a series of Japanese-language articles, government reports, and blog entries on the topic together sketch basic details of the proposed regulations. The main points of these documents are summarized below, with references to resources offering more in-depth discussion included at the end of the article.

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Posted by Elvis on 12/28/07 •
Section Privacy And Rights • Section News
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