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Japan: Possession of Child Pornography Finally Punishable

(Aug. 4, 2014) Since 2008, the Japanese government has pushed for an amendment of the law to make the possession of child pornography illegal. (Sayuri Umeda, Japan: Child Pornography Law Amendment Discussed, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Jan. 29, 2010).) It has finally succeeded, with the promulgation on July 25, 2014, of the Act to Amend the Act on Punishment of Activities Relating to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and the Protection of Children [Child Pornography Act]. (Text of the amendment act, Act No. 79 of 2014 [in Japanese], House of Representatives’ website.)

The amendment makes the following changes to the Child Pornography Act:

  • addition of a new provision prohibiting possession of child pornography and the storage of electronic records of child pornography (id., art. 3-2.);
  • clarification of the definition of child pornography through the addition of the following underlined wording to one of the elements of the definition: “[a]ny pose of a child wholly or partially naked, in which (a) part(s) of the child’s body of sexual interest (genitals, area around the genitals, hips, and chest) are particularly exposed or emphasized, and which arouses or stimulates the viewer’s sexual desire (id. art. 2 ¶ 3 item 3);
  • the offense of possession of child pornography with the intent to fulfill one’s own sexual desire is punishable by imprisonment for up to one year or a fine of up to one million yen (about US$10,000) (id. art. 7 ¶ 1);
  • addition of the offense of producing child pornography by using an image that was secretly recorded (id. art. 7 ¶ 5) (previously, only child pornography produced by forcing/instructing the child to pose was punishable); and
  • addition of a provision that strongly urges online service providers to make an effort to cooperate with law enforcement and take measures to prevent the spread of child pornography online (id. art. 16-3).

The Child Pornography Act does not regulate cartoons, animations, and games that include artificially created images of the pornographic depiction of children or stories of child sexual abuse. The amendment did not change this omission, because of concerns about infringement of free expression. Such images, moreover, are distinguished from photos and other stored images of actual children that are records of actual child sexual abuse; it therefore is argued there are no specific child victims. (Editorial, Child Pornography Regulation, A Step Forward to Protect Children [in Japanese], MAINICHI NEWSPAPER (June 26, 2014).)

The amendment became effective on July 15, 2014. There is a one-year moratorium on punishment for possession of child pornography in order to give the possessors time to discard it. (Amended Child Pornography Act to Prohibit Possession of Child Pornography, Effective on July 15, No Punishment for a Year [in Japanese], IT MEDIA (July 14, 2014).)