Japan: Mandatory DRM Software In All Mobile Phones To Fight Music Piracy

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 13, 2009
Updated • Dec 1, 2012
Mobile Computing

Japanese mobile phone developers, companies and the recording industry of Japan are in talks currently to agree on new anti-piracy measures to fight music piracy in Japan according to the Financial Times. The proposed solution offered by the recording industry suggest digital rights management to be build into every mobile phone sold in Japan. The software would query an Internet server (DRM server) whenever a user would try to play a song to check if the song was purchased legally. It would play if the return would be positive and otherwise refuse to play the song. The proposed system could be launched as early as 2011.

The mobile phone market in Japan is different from that of the rest of the world as Japanese mobile phone companies control the software on the mobile phones meaning it would be very unlikely that these measures, if agreed on, would be introduced in other markets as well.

The article fails to address several difficulties of such a system. The most important ones are the following:

  • What happens to songs that have been ripped from legally bought CDs? Won't they be played at all? (this assumes that it is legal in Japan to rip CDs)
  • What happens if no connection is available currently? (Will it be possible to play songs without net connection?)
  • Who pays for the traffic that the song checks create?

Please post your opinions in the comments.


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  1. Frank said on September 15, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    I have an AU phone in Japan. I can not play any music unless I download it through the internet. My phone will only play the AU company format and will not recognize anything else including WAM or MP3.

    Some DOCOMO phones play MP3’s but those phones cost a lot more. By far the iPhone is the best option.

    I currently carry a cell phone capable of music (if downloaded) and an MP3 player. It’s a wast of pocket space but works fine for a cheap-o like me.

    Also, if you download music to your phone and change phones, you have to pay $20 to transfer the music from your old phone to the new phone. Unless you go to another provider in which case you simply CANT transfer the music.

    Why do we put up with this lack of flexibility? Because we don’t know any better. In Japan people are willing to pay for what is normally free in other countries.

  2. Torment said on September 14, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Internet connectivity is pretty ubiquitous in all parts of Japan, and it’s not a separate service (i.e. if you have connection to a cellular phone network you’re also connected to the internet) so the second concern listed up there won’t be much of an issue.

  3. Frostbite said on September 14, 2009 at 6:57 am

    Jack has it pretty dead on. This never works and just causes more frustration than anything else, I don’t see it garnering anything but negativity.

  4. Jack said on September 14, 2009 at 3:15 am

    No need for normal people even to go into detail with stuff like this, is there? Every person on the planet with two brain cells connected knows why this kind of nonsense is a waste of business time and customer patience.

    But the media industry buffoons in their ivory towers just never EVER get it, do they? Rather like medieval monks determined trying to hang onto their quill pens by burning the printing presses. If they weren’t so annoying they’d be deeply sad.

  5. rakesh said on September 14, 2009 at 3:04 am

    what if someone hack this s/w?

  6. Roman ShaRP said on September 14, 2009 at 1:25 am

    If they do – they end up just boosting standalone player sales. :)

    Or they will have to push another law – requiring mobile connection to be built in every playing device in Japan. I don’t think that party pushing such a law will be very popular.

    Rather we’ll see the next Pirate Party – now in Japan.

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