Court order reflects the gravity of copyright infringement

A judicial warning has been issued that massive damages will be imposed for the unauthorized editing and publication of films and other copyrighted works. This will act as a deterrent against the illegal distribution of such material online.

The Tokyo District Court has ruled against a man and a woman who created “fast movies,” or shortened versions of feature-length films edited down to about 10 minutes, and posted them on video-sharing sites. The man and woman have been ordered to pay a total of ¥500 million in damages for copyright infringement, as sought by the plaintiffs, who include movie companies and TV stations.

In 2020, the two defendants released fast movies for 54 works whose copyrights were held by 13 companies, including Toho Co., Shochiku Co. and Toei Co., without permission. The number of views exceeded 10 million, and they earned about ¥7 million in advertising revenue.

The plaintiffs calculated the damage to them at ¥200 per view, for a total of ¥2 billion, and sought ¥500 million for the “recovery of minimum damages.” The court fully approved these claims.

This is the first court decision related to the amount of compensation for fast movies, and the ruling may serve as a model for future cases. It is expected to deter recidivism and encourage the proper protection of copyrights.

The man and woman had already been found guilty and were given suspended sentences in a criminal trial. People who post illegal videos online for advertising revenue should realize they will have to pay a heavy price.

Thanks to the strict measures taken by the industry, the number of fast movies edited from Japanese films has plummeted, but serious damage is still being inflicted by manga piracy sites.

Publishing companies are heightening their monitoring of piracy sites and are also focusing on lawsuits seeking damages from site operators and others. The Cultural Affairs Agency is considering revising the Copyright Law to change the method of calculating damages, so that higher compensation can be received.

The challenge is to crack down on piracy sites based overseas. Identifying operators is not easy, and Japan has a reputation for lax monitoring.

Amid these circumstances, Chinese authorities fined a Chinese national in June for distributing Japanese manga without permission. This was the first time a piracy site operator targeting Japanese readers has been punished overseas, and information provided by the Japan side is said to have been utilized.

In October, a Japanese industry group lobbied a Spanish online advertising company to stop advertising on piracy sites.

Japan needs to make it widely known internationally that the country has a policy of proactively dealing with illegal acts across borders.

Viewers and readers of postings that violate copyrights will also be held responsible. Viewing and reading material without consideration for such matters encourages the illegal distribution of copyrighted works and destroys the profit base of publishers and movie companies. People must be aware that they may be held criminally accountable in certain cases.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 11, 2022)