On 25 January, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications along with various motion picture and music associations announced their latest copyright protection measure, dubbed “Operation Decoy File.”

The plan involves inserting files onto Japan’s popular P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing networks such as Winny and Share which appear to contain popular copyrighted material.  However, once downloaded, the file is revealed to be a message appealing the user to reconsider their wicked ways.

First here is a translated diagram from the Ministry website which outlines Operation Decoy File in detail.

The message intended to sway featureless blue Internet pirates is also available as a PDF file on the Ministry website and outlines the penalties for uploading and downloading data under copyright in Japan. Here is the main part of the message:

A Warning from the Organization to Raise Awareness of Copyright

Files with the same name as this contain content which is in violation of copyright when distributed over P2P networks such as Winny or Share.

Knowingly downloading and of course uploading files that are protected by copyright law without the consent of the owner over the Internet is illegal copyright infringement. Please stop immediately.

Also, from 1 October 2012, downloading content which is known to be available for sale is punishable by a maximum 2-year prison sentence and/or 2,000,000 yen [US$21,000] fine.

Our copyright organization is working to eliminate copyright infringement by file sharing software. In addition to consulting the police to obtain the disclosure of user’s identities, we want to focus on user education.

When this scheme was announced it triggered a discussion on Japan’s 2-channel message board. Here, some netizens were worried about the impact this would have on their porn viewing habits.

Others tried to track down files containing the warning message by checking the huge difference in files sizes between the real Dark Knight Returns video file and a paragraph of text. While this entire plan does seem like a throwback to the days of Napster, it’s not so likely this group is hiding the files in such a lame way.

The Ministry also makes it clear that this is simply a test to see how effective it could be to deter filesharing by inserting “copyright awareness” files on P2P. Some people on 2-channel read this to mean that they may consider inserting viruses onto the networks.

Either way, illegal file sharing is sparsely practiced in Japan compared to other countries despite having some of the fastest internet connections in the world. Most people think it’s simply not worth the risk to download movies or songs. So while this plan may seem absurdly naïve abroad, it actually may have an effect in this country.

Source: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications via Yahoo R25 (Japanese)