Photo/IllutrationAn emergency statement issued by copyright experts asks, “For whom will the law be revised?” (Mayumi Ueda)

Copyright experts issued an emergency statement on Feb. 19 asking the government to shrink the scope of what it plans to classify as illegal downloading.

The government recently announced plans to make it a criminal offense for Internet users to download any pirated material if they are aware that the materials infringe on copyrights.

The planned Copyright Law revision was conceived to protect materials such as manga, photographs and theses, which have been uploaded online without consent from rights holders.

However, some have expressed concern that the change could make it a crime to take screenshots for everyday reference, which would inhibit researchers and others.

About 80 experts listed their names in the statement.

University of Tokyo professor emeritus Nobuhiro Nakayama, a leading expert on the Copyright Law, and others first called for issuing the statement.

Six of the 26 members of an advisory council subcommittee of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, which compiled the guideline of the proposed revision, and journalist Daisuke Tsuda were among those on the list.

They asserted that the law should not confuse daily activities for collecting information, such as taking screenshots, with downloading pirated materials, which inflicts economic damage on rights holders.

“The download ban should be limited to the range necessary for tackling pirated materials that impose serious damage on rights holders,” the statement said.

It noted that cases considered illegal acts should be limited to those in which “the benefits to rights holders are unfairly damaged” because the online materials are no different than their “original works.”