Japan Looking Into Stricter Regs for Explicit Imagery

Joanne Cachapero
TOKYO — A research panel made recommendations to the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for stricter regulations on “harmful material” displayed on the Internet, a move that closely follows the passage of the Securing Adolescents From Exploitation Online Act of 2007 or "SAFE Act" by the U.S. House of Representatives last week.

Here in the U.S., the SAFE Act, if put into law, would impose stiffer penalties on Internet service providers that fail to report "any facts or circumstances that appear to indicate" pornography or sexual exploitation of minors.

Included in the language of the bill, terms like “lascivious display” and “depictions” are defined by existing federal statutes referenced by the SAFE Act in such a way that ISPs could find themselves needing to report depictions of fully clothed minors, if they are posed incorrectly, or even forms of depictions like statues, drawings and paintings.

The act could potentially have a significant effect on adult-oriented manga and anime content. Currently, child pornography laws in Japan do not regulate manga and art that depict children who are not real or "virtual child pornography."

In Japan, a report was submitted to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIAC) Thursday recommending that a bill be submitted to the Diet (the Japanese governing body comprised of the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors) by 2010, imposing stricter regulations on “harmful materials” online, as well as unifying the laws on telecommunications and broadcasting.

Another panel is expected to convene between 2008-2009 in order to draft specific proposals, after which the MIAC is expected to propose a bill for regulation to the Diet.

The report cited the need to protect children from being exposed to inappropriate Internet content and pointed out that the laws currently do not allow for the government to filter online materials.

The panel’s recommendations were prompted, in part, by a survey conducted in October. Called the Special Opinion Poll on Harmful Materials, the study was conducted on 1,767 participants who were interviewed by researchers.

Survey results indicated that 86.5 percent of the respondents thought that manga and anime content should be subject to regulations for child pornography, and 90.9 percent said that “harmful materials” on the Internet should be regulated.

80.8 percent of those surveyed said that magazines, DVDs and other offline materials also should be regulated, though only 27.3 percent of the participants indicated that they were aware of the issues concerning harmful materials.