Japanese politicians approved a change in the pertinent laws following a lobbying campaign by the country's music industry, the BBC reported Monday.
The Recording Industry Association of Japan had cited studies that suggested illegal media downloads outnumbered legal ones by about a factor of 10 in the country, the world's second-largest music market after the United States.
"This revision will reduce the spread of copyright infringement activities on the Internet," said the association's chairman, Naoki Kitagawa, who is also chief executive of Sony Music Entertainment Japan.
Critics of the new penalties said efforts should have remained focused on stopping those who make such material available for others to download.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations issued a statement saying the offense should have remained a civil, rather than criminal, matter.
"Treating personal activities with criminal punishments must be done very cautiously, and the property damage caused by individual illegal downloads by private individuals is highly insignificant," it said.
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