Adult website operator arrested over uploading female athletes’ images

The Metropolitan Police Department has arrested a man on suspicion of putting images of female athletes on an adult website after obtaining the images from a TV program without permission, a violation of the Copyright Law.

This is the first arrest to be made in such a case since last fall, when the sports world launched a large-scale campaign against taking and disseminating photos for sexual purposes. The Japanese Olympic Committee had consulted with the MPD about such cases after receiving requests from several sports organizations and female athletes.

According to investigators, adult website operator Kosuke Koyama, 37, of Seika, Kyoto Prefecture, was arrested Sunday.

Invesigators believe that Koyama duplicated images of female athletes taking part in competitions that were shown on a TV sports program, and on May 18, 2019, he uploaded them without permission on an adult website that he operates.

He is suspected of infringing the TV station’s copyright by making the images available for viewing by an unspecified number of internet users.

The images shown on TV were not considered obscene. However, the athletes’ images were reproduced on an adult website that also showed unrelated naked women, and obscene comments were added to the images.

MPD investigators said Koyama runs about 10 adult sites, and they are checking their content.

In the sports world, filming athletes for sexual purposes has been a problem for many years, but there is no provision in the Penal Code that prohibits it. Also, prefectural governments’ anti-nuisance ordinances only apply to such acts as secretly taking pictures of people in the nude, or in underwear that is normally hidden by their clothes.

Since athletes wear uniforms, it was difficult to bring criminal charges in such cases.

Measures against such incidents were boosted in August last year after the Japan Association of Athletics Federations received a complaint from a female athlete who said that her breasts and buttocks had been photographed in close-up without her permission and that the photos had been disseminated on social media.

In November the same year, the JOC and six other related organizations issued a joint statement calling for these acts to be prevented.

In March this year, the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games — for the first time in the history of the Olympic Games — added the taking and transmission of images for sexual purposes to the list of prohibited activities at Games venues.

Athletes have portrait rights and publicity rights to receive compensation for the use of their images, but once images are disseminated on the internet, they cannot be easily erased, making it difficult to recover damages through civil suits.

Under these circumstances, the MPD has focused its investigation on unscrupulous website operators who disseminate such images. Noting that TV station’s images were being used without permission, they decided to pursue violations of the Copyright Law.