In the year that Japan passed stricter copyright laws – well, stricter than most nations – that made illegal downloading a crime punishable with jail time and heavy fines, the country’s music industry has not experienced a significant increase in profits. In fact, the quarterly numbers are lower than the year before it. Also, police have yet to prosecute anyone for the breaking of this specific law.
Japan officially started prosecuting music, movie, and software pirates starting in October 2012. The tangible effect that the law has had in the past year has been the decrease of the number of people who use “Winny” and “Share” – the two most popular illegal download programs in the country – by 40 percent. That may be a substantial decrease, but it didn’t quite bump up CD sales as the Japanese music industry would have hoped for. Sales had initially increased after the law was passed, with CD purchases rising by 5 percent over the period of October 2012 to June 2013. From January to August, the numbers show a decrease of 7 percent, even lower than the already suffering numbers last year. In other words, sales went up briefly and then went even further back down. In addition, legal digital music distribution during October 2012-June 2013 dropped 24 percent.
We hope that the government begins to realize that these numbers will prove that there is not a direct link between music piracy and decreasing CD sales. Another notable effect the law had was to increase the rate of album rentals. According to the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ), rentals have increased by nearly 50 percent over the same period. “The revised law has been effective in increasing the amount of rentals, but it seems unconnected to the number of people who are paying to actually buy music,” said RIAJ’s managing director Kenji Takasugi. Maybe it’s the price of the CDs. Maybe it’s that no one uses CDs anymore, and everyone has virtually digitized their music. Maybe it’s the quality of the music. Or maybe it’s a combination of all these factors. One thing is sure, though – the numbers show that the issue can’t possibly be all blamed on illegal downloads.