A Japan National Police spokesman said that in 2002, the police investigated 42 piracy cases involving 68 people and nine corporations. About half involved computer users such as office workers and students “creating pirate CDs and DVDs and selling them due to advancement in personal computers,” the spokesman said.

Japan’s Ministry of Finance said in a news release that Japanese customs officers have confiscated approximately 140,000 items in violation of intellectual property law in 90 cases in 2003; and approximately 320,000 items in 108 cases in 2002.

Confiscated products mostly came from South Korea, China and Hong Kong, which compromises about 90 percent of confiscated items.

The numbers include anything that violates the intellectual property law, such as fake brand bags.

A Tokyo customs spokesman said officials do not look only for pirated items, but for anything illegal.

“Customs treats the issue seriously. It is an issue that has caught a lot of attention, and we will continue to put our efforts into enforcing the issue,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman said if a person claims the product is for personal use, customs cannot take action, especially if the person is bringing in a single copy.

If the inspector detects from questioning and the person’s actions that it is most likely not for personal use, the case is sent to Tokyo Customs for discussions between the importer and the owner of the rights on whether the product is real or not.

Under Japan’s Tariff Act, a violator can face up to five years in prison or a 5 million yen (about $45,500) fine and confiscation of the product.

“I personally think there was not much problem with U.S. servicemembers trying to bring something in. From my experience working as an inspector, I think there were mostly no problems,” the spokesman said.

author picture
Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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