Just days after a Japanese copyright owners' group pushed for a tax on MP3 players to compensate its members for profits supposedly lost to file sharing, the Asahi Shimbun reported that Japan is cracking down on file sharers themselves:
In a first for Japan's beleaguered music industry, five individuals have agreed to pay compensation to five record companies for unauthorized distribution of music on the Internet through file-swapping programs.What's interesting is how the record companies got in touch with the file-sharers. Basically, the companies just asked their ISP's to cough up their personal information, and the ISP's did:
According to the Recording Industry Association of Japan based in Tokyo's Minato Ward, the five agreed to pay a total of about 2.4 million yen (about $21,600) to five record companies.
The five individuals expressed remorse and apologized for their illegal activities, the association said Wednesday. They also submitted written promises never again to conduct similar acts that violate copyright laws.
Based on the provider liability limitation law, eight record companies asked 13 Internet service providers to disclose information, including names and addresses, of 44 individuals who had been illegally distributing music using file-swapping software in 2004.Japan's Provider Liability Limitation Law (Japanese text here), enacted in 2002, gave private parties broad powers to force ISP's to disclose users' personal information.
The information on nine of the individuals was disclosed.
The record companies sent written complaints seeking compensation from eight individuals. The companies only recently obtained information on the ninth individual.
A lawyer for the record firms met with five of the individuals, who agreed to pay compensation. The amount was based on the number of songs they had made public on the Internet, the association said.
According to the association, the record companies intend to continue negotiations with the three others who have not responded to the complaint. Lawsuits are a possibility, the association said.
Let's say you're a Japanese ISP. Someone claims one of your customers is infringing upon their rights online. This person demands that you tell them the user's personal details, so he or she can be named in a lawsuit. In a nutshell, under the PL3, you, the ISP, must disclose the information. Apparently, no subpoena, court order, or other independent assessment of the merit of the infringement claim is required.
It's not clear to me why the Japanese ISP's disclosed nine user names, but not the other 35. And, of course, I am not a Japanese lawyer, and I am not familiar with how the PL3 has been interpreted by Japanese courts. But the Asahi article suggests that either courts have been siding with plaintiffs against ISP's, or some ISP's are simply handing over their users' information without even putting up a fight.